Whenever I think about the phrase, “blood, sweat, and tears”, I think about sports. I am reminded of the times where I would be outside playing, and I would end up sweating profusely from playing so hard. There would also be times where I would end up getting hurt. Especially at a young age, when I would see blood, I would end up crying (tears). I understand that there are many other reasons to shed blood, sweat, and tears. It could be from some sort of work such as construction or carpentry work. Consider pregnant women who give birth, I am sure that most of them will agree that there is plenty of blood, sweat, and tears. We see several instances in Paul’s writings where he references some sort of arena (sporting) competitions. We find words like runners, boxers, gladiators, chariot racers, and trophies. Consider what is said below.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
This passage always reminds me of my time when I played in organized sports. If I am being honest with you, I can remember most of my coaches and their coaching styles all the way back to when I was around 5 years old. Paul here is utilizing language that these Corinthian brethren would understand. Most, if not all, know about the Olympics. During their time, they had something called the Isthmian Games, very similar to the Olympics. There is no doubt among most people within the sport community that “blood, sweat, and tears” goes into training and preparation. Even today, many athletes who wish to compete at the highest level must go through rigorous training for the purpose of not only competing but winning. Granted, over the years we have seen a new concept come about with the idea of “participation trophies” but even with those, everyone knows that you either won or you lost. I can assure you that nobody will want a “participation trophy” from Hell. Unfortunately, there are those who seem to make light of the reality of Hell. Eternal condemnation is no joke. It is not a game, and it certainly is not one big party as many boast about.
The phrase “Run in such a way that you may win”, should cause us to think about the effort that we give. Even the best athletes must put their best foot forward. If they do not, they will not succeed. They will not win. Obviously here, we are talking about things that in the end, do not matter. It doesn’t matter how many world titles, national championships, state titles, gold medals, you have. I can assure you that God is not rewarding us based on having those things. He rewards us by our effort in the Kingdom. It is due to our faith and obedience within the gospel. Part of showing effort is how well we exhibit self-control in our lives. Cutting things out of our lives that hinder us in our race to make Heaven our home is an excellent place to start. This is where things can get “sticky”. I say this because there are things that might not necessarily be sinful, but just because it is not sinful, does not mean that it is necessarily good for you either. It would take me several bulletins to list off different examples along with a description as to why some things may not be sinful, but they are not good for us in our lives either. For the sake of space, I will list one here for you just as a general example and then finish up my thoughts.
Take a recovering alcoholic for example. For someone who struggled with addiction, it probably would not be wise for him to go out to restaurants that openly serve alcohol, such as Chili’s. I do not believe it is sinful to eat at Chili’s. I do not believe it is sinful for a recovering alcoholic to eat at a Chili’s. Very rarely do I ever eat at Chili’s but there have been times when I was offered an alcoholic beverage. For me, it was very easy to say “No”. For some, it is not so easy. One way to avoid this kind of problem is to simply not go to a place like that. In our area, there are plenty of other restaurants we could go dine in at that does not serve alcohol.
Anyone who wishes to debate this, I have heard almost every argument there is to make on this type of subject. I simply do not buy any of the excuses that sound like “I know when to stop”, “I know my limits”, etc. We are called to be a “peculiar people”. We have been sanctified. There is no need to behave as the world does. If you are not convinced, then please study the issue that you struggle with. Consider this next passage.
Galatians 5:7 You were running well, who hindered you from obeying the truth?
There is a whole context to consider within Galatians 5. Paul is referencing false teachers here. One thought here is that these runners, had a new road to run on due to Christ. This newly paved road in their lives was being destroyed due to the false teaching but it is not just the fault of the false teacher. They were the ones allowing it to influence them! Do not allow someone to come through destroying your road to Heaven because all it takes is us getting off the road to Heaven.
Jesus gave us His blood, sweat, and tears for us to be reconciled back to God. How much are you willing to give back? Are you willing to shed a little blood, sweat, and tears to reach Heaven? If not, why not? “Temporary discomfort” for eternal glory, that will be a sight to see!