I couldn’t be more thrilled that the winter Olympics have begun. They are my favorite sporting event to watch because of the captivating stories behind the athletes and the work ethic just getting to the games entails. Most Olympians aren’t highly paid, sponsored, or otherwise famed athletes– they work with unparalleled dedication for their sport simply because, they love the sport. In that respect, the Olympic games are completely different then any of the professional or collegiate sports that typically dominate our tv screens.
I am always astonished when I hear some of the training regimens that the athletes endure. The disciplined efforts required to achieve such an elite status often borders insanity. Strict diets, years of structured training both physically and mentally, often the deferment of any other dream/career path.
As the games begin, athletes of every country fill the stadium showcasing vibrant smiles that testify to the immense privilege of just being there. One of the most exciting things about the Olympics is even underdogs and nobodies chasing their dreams have the same opportunity; a chance to forever set a record, earn a medal and leave their mark.
Regardless of the sport, having gold medal aspirations is quite obviously an all consuming endeavor. It takes every ounce of talent, ambition, and determination an athlete can possess. In first Corinthians Paul offers some relevant “olympic” advice for every Christian.
“Do you not know that in a race all the 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” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25)
Paul’s allusion refers to the Isthmian games, which were a passionate pursuit for the greeks during that era. Like our Olympic athletes– those in the Isthmian games had regulated diets, refrained from many pleasures, and submitted to rigorous training. In those games they competed for a crown of leaves, a prize that would soon wither and be valueless.
Paul encourages believers to run so they may obtain the prize; don’t just run– run to secure a prize! Living our Christian lives in “gold medal” fashion is a demanding pursuit, one that requires sacrifice, discipline and passion. Christianity isn’t a spectator sport, nor is it recreational. It demands our all and means living with the singular purpose of pleasing God above all else.
You’ve seen the Olympic medal ceremonies haven’t you? Athletes overcome with emotion, tears of joy streaming down their cheeks as their countries anthem plays. In that brief moment, as they stand proudly– all the hours– the injuries– the financial stresses– the numerous sacrifices– it’s all worth it.
How much greater will it be for the Christian when they meet Jesus? Every believer has the same opportunity, the chance to live their life with purpose. The chance to bring great glory to God throughout their unique life events. What a tragedy it would be if we live our lives for the awards of men and consequently miss the applause from heaven. As you tune in for the Olympics, take a few moments to evaluate how you are racing. Run to win! The joy of hearing “well done” from the Father will far outweigh any other achievement you could hope for.