How old were you when you realized buffet and buffet are two words that are spelled identically, but are pronounced differently and have different meanings? Well, they’re called heteronyms, and I was in my early 50’s!
All you can eat buffets are all over the place, you know where you can go and stuff your face with food until you can’t move. I think that is probably changing, because of the current circumstances surrounding us now. All you can eat buffets are probably yesterdays news!
The apostle Paul is telling us we are to buffet (BUFF it) (ˈbə-fət) our bodies like the athlete and soldier, not buffet (boo FAY) (bə-ˈfā) our bodies with worldly desires and pleasures…For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 1 John 2:16.
I love when Paul gives us these illustrations from his culture, it always puts it into prospective for me, and he doesn’t disappoint here. Paul was obviously familiar with the soldier, the athlete, the boxer and the Olympic games.
The Roman soldier was rigorously trained to do his job and he did it with focus and dedication for his emperor. The Greek athletes devoted months and even years to train hard to win a prize in the games, whether the Olympic Games or the Isthmian Games.
Paul would write…
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. 25 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. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.1 Corinthians 9:24-27
What does Paul mean when he says, “but I discipline my body and make it my slave?”
Epictetus writes “Would you be a victor in the Olympic games? so in good truth would I, for it is a glorious thing; but pray consider what must go before, and what may follow, and so proceed to the attempt. You must then live by rule, eat what will be disagreeable, refrain from delicacies; you must oblige yourself to constant exercises at the appointed hour, in heat and cold; you must abstain from wine and cold liquors; in a word, you must be as submissive to all direction of your master as to those of a physician.”Epictetus, the Greek Stoic Philosopher
Discipline, hupōpiazō literally means to beat black and blue, to punish, to strike under the eye, give a black eye to. To bring someone to submission by constant annoyance, wear down, to put under strict discipline, as in the apostle’s self-imposed discipline. Like a boxer, who buffets his body, handles it roughly, being disciplined by hardships that come with each match.
Paul was serious about discipline and self-control in the Christian life. It’s going to be a long haul for us, it’s a daily approach to go into this battleground, but by His strength (Ephesians 6:10 more on this below) we can persevere.
The opponent is our own bodies, our own thought minds, all the worldly desires and appetites. Instead we need heed Paul’s instructions to be like the boxer who buffets his body, beating it into submission.
Paul took Jesus’ words seriously and died to self and took up his cross, turned from his selfish ways and desires and kept following His Lord. Luke 9:23
We are told to lay aside our sinful ways that so easily entangles us, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” Hebrews 12:1, “every encumbrance” are the things in our life that causes us to sin!
Paul says, “I box in such a way, as not beating the air.” That means he connects with a punch, striking real blows at the adversary and not just beating the air. 1 Corinthians 9:26.
This can only be done with hard work, discipline and self-control.
We need to continually transform our minds by prayer and the word of God… Look at Romans 12…
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.Romans 12:1, 2 [Emphasis Mine}
It’s transforming our minds and lives with the living and active word of God, Hebrews 4:12, you see we don’t run for a pine wreath that is perishable, but one that will not fade away and that is imperishable. 1 Peter 1:4.
Finally Paul says in Ephesians 6:10-17 to put on….
You see beloved, we can not separate the reading and studying of the word of God from our daily lives and think we are going to be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
Paul writes, stand firm with the full armor of God. The word of God is our offensive weapon, and without it our defenses won’t stand firm!
Paul did not want to be disqualified from Christ using him for His service, because of his lack of self-control and discipline. So he says “I Discipline, hupōpiazō, buffet (ˈbə-fət) my body and make it my slave.” In doing so he could do great things for Christ, and getting people saved was on the top of his list.
Renew your minds with the living word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to apply them to your life, while working out your salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12, 13…
Then go and do great eternal things for God by His strength and for His glory…
… To God alone be the glory!
…and that’s a beautiful thing!