Part two of a series on Simplicity and Sacrifice – catch up here.

“Do you know that in a race all runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-26

The Christian life is similar to athletic training. It involves a two-sided strategy of doing things that improve athletic performance while avoiding (or abstaining from) things that degrade performance. Athletes will abstain from certain foods, risky activities in other sports, and events that conflict with their exercise and rest plans. Paul uses the metaphor of a runner in the previous passage. It is clear that he led a “simple” life. One uncluttered with things, activities, and events that (although okay) would turn out to be detrimental to his life goals.

Part of “Christian training” is controlling the desires that come naturally to us. In many cases, they are inherently okay, but can be an enemy of the best. They can crowd out our goals, cloud our motives, or become addictive. Desires like food, sex, fun, praise, influence, and popularity are okay unless we become slaves to them. Fasting is one way to refocus our attention on God.

Anything that we go to in place of God for comfort in a time of need has become an idol to us. It is when you go to any of them first in a time of need that they have ceased to be good for you.

In her book Soul FeastMarjorie Thompson calls the habit of simplicity and abstaining “self-emptying.”

But isn’t that, well, draining? Where does sacrifice fit into a life of joy?

Jan Johnson writes in Simplicity and Fasting (Spiritual Disciplines Bible Studies):

“But the death to self is difficult! train us to relinquish what we want. But when done as God leads, they do not need to make us miserable. teach us to truly enjoy each blessing of creation as it comes–enjoying one simple luscious grape at a time, being grateful for a car that runs well, getting us from one place to the next.

We learn to love the world God loves without running on the fuel it runs on–unlimited amounts and varieties of food, media and words.”

Discipleship Challenge:

Pause and pray for guidance as you reflect on the excesses in your life. Then complete the following exercise.

Examine your motives for saying “yes” to too many things. Think of three times you said “yes” in the last three days. Ask these questions about these times:

  • Is there something you are trying to prove?
  • Someone you are trying to impress?
  • Is it God’s will or yours you are following?

Stay tuned for part three: When to Exercise Abstinence. Or download your free copy of Simplicity and Sacrifice today!

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