I have to start by saying I do not like chapter 9. I am probably not suppose to say that as a pastor, but I do not like it. The first reason is Paul comes off as whining to me in the beginning of the passage. Obviously he is answering some direct questions presented to him, and addressing them very directly. I am most uncomfortable when Paul says he would just assume die before giving up this boast of not being paid by the churches. All I have to say is Ewww. Those are the words of a man dripping with pride, not a good place.
The second reason I do not like the passage is found in the second half. It is almost as if Paul comes to his sense and decides to get back to the business of preaching and teach, not whining. He comes back with a great challenge. Paul states he has become all things to all men that he might save some (v22). That is hard work. It means a lot of time reading, preparing, studying, interacting, and being among people. It will mean being misunderstood, it will mean people calling you a universalist, it will mean running the risk of losing your identity. But it is for the sake of the gospel we are called to this.
Continuing the second part of the passage does not bring relief. We are called to enter into training, with our whole body. We live in a world of dualism, we disconnect parts of our lives. Some would say we have a spiritual life, a work life, a home life, our physical life and our personal life. Each its own compartment. This should not be. Our life should be lived as an integrated whole. To do this requires training. Training of the whole body and person. Not easy.
I wish Paul would have left this part out of his correspondence with the Corinthian church. Then I would not have to deal with it. However, there it is. Now I first have to choose if I will deal with it. Once I choose life and choose to deal with it, I must them make the difficult changes in my life that will lead to transformation. All of this sounds like hard work, and it is. If it was easy everyone would be doing it. Everyone is called to a full and whole life, yet only some choose, will you?