The apostle Paul was serious about the gospel. He gave himself to the task of serving God with the same dedication that an athlete devotes to preparation for competition. While athletes train for a temporal prize, Paul endured tremendous hardship to win an eternal reward.

Although he had experienced several years of fruitful ministry, the apostle had every reason to quit. On five occasions he had felt the searing bite of 39 lashes as leather cords tore into his flesh (2 Cor. 11:24). He was also beaten, stoned, and shipwrecked, and he endured hunger, thirst, cold, and many other troubles (vv.25-27).

Paul’s body must have rebelled each time he prepared to go to another place of service. I imagine it told him, “Look, Paul. I’m tired and hurt. I’ve done enough. Why do you insist on such insane acts of love for these difficult people? There’s no way I’m going to risk more abuse. It’s time to retire!”

But Paul disciplined his body. “I know you hurt,” I can hear him say. “I would like to give in to you. But for the gospel, for Christ’s kingdom, for Jesus Christ Himself, I have to keep going. And I can’t go without you. Come on!”

Paul made his body his servant and the servant of the gospel. Are we as determined to serve Christ?