Don't Disqualify Yourself!
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others,
I myself should be a castaway.
- 1 Corinthians 9:27
Recent years have been painful for the worldwide Christian community as they have witnessed famous Christian leaders fall into sin time and again. Not so long ago, I sat in a hotel room and watched with a broken heart as a famous evangelist, whose voice once touched the nations of the earth, preached with almost no effect on television. Because sin in his personal life had become public information years earlier, his words now seem empty, hollow, and irrelevant. Although he once preached to the nations of the world, now the world mocks him because they discovered the message he preached and the life he lived were not the same.
To me, one of the saddest things in the world is to see a man or woman whom God once powerfully used to preach the Gospel to millions of people around the world fall into sin. When that happens, it brings such shame to the name of Jesus Christ. These individuals may have once mightily impacted their nation or city for the Kingdom of God. But even if they are repentant and receive the forgiveness of God for the sin they committed, other people don't forget so easily. Like it or not, such sinful actions discredit them and ruin the effectiveness of their ministry. What they did or permitted themselves to get dragged into "disqualified" them from being as effective as they were before.
The apostle Paul wrote First Corinthians 9:27 to let us know that he never wanted to become discredited or disqualified. This is what he said: "But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway."
When the King James Version uses the word "castaway," it is actually the Greek word adokimos, which comes from the word dokimos, an old Greek word that means approved. But when an a is added to the front of the word, making it the word adokimos, it reverses the condition, which means this is no longer an approved person. Now this person has become disapproved, discredited, or disqualified.
This is a person who has lost a high position he once held. Although he was once honored and respected, he has now become a "castaway." He has lost his testimony and forfeited his reputation; as a result, he has become discredited, dishonored, and shamed.
I'm certain that Paul must have seen many people fall into sin during the course of his ministry. One example that comes to mind is Demas, a leader who was so beloved and respected by the Early Church that he is mentioned along with Luke in Colossians 4:14. But this same Demas who was once respected on the same level with Luke is mentioned again in Second Timothy 4:10, where we discover that Demas forsook the apostle Paul, abandoned his faith, and escaped into the world to spare himself from possible persecution.
People often make the tragic mistake of thinking that just because they have been successful in the past, they will continue to be successful in the future. But I have known many ministers of the Gospel who once experienced great success in the ministry and then slowly allowed their fire to go out. Whether they fell into sin or just became lethargic and complacent, the result was the same: They lost the cutting edge they once possessed in their ministries.
The primary reason people become discredited and shamed is that they don't control their flesh. Instead of crucifying the flesh and submitting it to the control of the Holy Spirit, they pander to the cravings of the flesh. As a result, they become dominated by the desires of the flesh, and those fleshly desires very deceptively lead them to fall into sin.
Paul was a great apostle who was filled with divine revelation and had preached to more people than anyone else in his day. Nevertheless, one of his greatest concerns was that after doing all he had done for the Kingdom, he might later become a "castaway" - the fate suffered by others whom he had known. Paul didn't consider himself so high and mighty that he couldn't imagine this happening to him.
Rather than make the mistake others had made by letting his flesh get the best of him, ultimately destroying both him and his reputation, Paul acted with great determination to keep his flesh under control. This is why he said, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection."
The word "subjection" is the word doulagogeo, a compound of the word doulos and ago. The word doulos is the word for a slave, and the word ago is the Greek word that means to lead. This means that Paul mastered his body and flesh rather than allowing his body and flesh to master him. He knew that many believers allow themselves to be led about by their fleshly desires. But Paul was determined that he would be the master of his own flesh. He was going to keep it in "subjection." In other words, he was going to lead his flesh about as his slave rather than be its slave and pander to its carnal desires.
By mastering his body and keeping it under his control, Paul made his flesh an instrument through which he preached the Gospel. His feet became his tool to take the Gospel to places that had never heard the Good News. His eyes became instruments through which he was able to identify needs that God's power could meet. His voice became the voice of salvation, healing, and deliverance to those who heard him preach. His hands became the hands of God that brought a healing and compassionate touch to those in need. Paul's body, which he determined to make his slave and his instrument, was never allowed to have its own way. Rather, Paul kept it under his command and made it his slave for the purpose of accomplishing his God-given dreams.
If you continue going the way you are going right now, is your physical body going to be a fine-tuned instrument that God can use, or is it going to be the very tool the devil uses to bring you into discredit and shame? Who is running your life today - you or your flesh?
If the apostle Paul was concerned that he could become discredited after all he had seen and done in the service of God's Kingdom, I think it would be wise for you to be concerned about who is running your life as well. Don't cut your flesh too much slack, friend, or it won't be long before it's running all over you and telling you what to do. You will reap the same result as others do when they refuse to discipline their flesh. In other words, you will eventually become broken by it.
Don't join the ranks of those who were once used by the Lord but are now set aside and ruined because they refused to bring their bodies into subjection. Your reputation, your influence, and the souls of unsaved men and women are at stake. Make sure you don't become a castaway after all the good you have already done!