SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- In the first 18 verses Paul is explaining that those who do ministry work (to an extent that they don't have time to do another job) deserve to be paid for their ministry. He explains that though this is true, he has ministered to them for free so that his message to them wouldn't be hindered.
- Paul explains, in verses 19-23, that he has "become all things to all people so that by all possible means" he might save some. The idea is that he tries to connect with and communicate with people in a way that makes sense to them, in hopes that he can lead them to Jesus.
- In verses 24-27 Paul uses the illustration of an athlete training for the Olympics to win the prize. He says that in the same way we need to focus ourselves on living a life that will lead us to get the "crown that will last forever." That crown may refer to getting to be with God forever in Heaven, or to becoming more and more like Jesus, or to the recognition we'll get from God in Heaven for the work we did for Him on Earth.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- We need to "become all things to all people so that by all possible means" we might lead some to Jesus. Instead of focusing on our differences with people who are far from God, we need to focus on what we have in common, and use it to build a relationship. Within that relationship we need to look for opportunities to graciously talk about our faith and share Jesus.
- We need to put our focused effort into our spiritual training so we can truly live for God, not "be disqualified for the prize," and "get a crown that will last forever."
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- Who has God put in your life who does not know Him? What do you have in common with that person that would help you build a relationship? Maybe you both have kids, or have a similar hobby, or enjoy working out? How can you use that to deepen your relationship? And given the opportunity, how will you share your faith with them?
- What is your "training regimen" for growing spiritually? Does it include reading the Bible everyday? Praying everyday? Volunteering at church? Being in a Micro Group? What else? How much focus and time and effort do you put into it? And, since it's the most important thing in all of life, should you make it a higher priority?