I love the Summer Olympics. Over 10,000 of the best athletes in the world proudly representing their 200 countries competing at the highest level for gold, silver, and bronze medals and to hear their country’s National Anthem on the medal stand. To me, it is the ultimate in reality TV. As I watched the opening ceremony Friday night officially kicking off the Rio 2016 Games, I was moved seeing the parade of athletes as they proudly marched into the stadium with their fellow countrymen behind their country’s flag. There was passion. There was happiness. There was national pride. For one night at least, the world seemed to come together as one. For these athletes, the next two weeks will be full of cheering, competition, and memories I am sure they will never forget.
But as I was noticing the genuine joy on their faces Friday night, I also thought about the hours of training and the sacrifices these athletes made just to qualify for the Olympic Games. You see, for many of these athletes, just marching in with their countries Friday night and getting cheered on by thousands of people in the stadium and many more on television, was the reward for all their hard work. Their dreams had become a reality. They were officially Olympic athletes. They will get to compete at the highest level. Not many will win medals, but for most, their reward was in the journey. The blood, sweat, and tears. The perseverance. The discipline – training on days when the weather was bad or they just didn’t feel like it. The soreness and the icing. The injuries. Enduring it all, they reached the ultimate destination in their particular sport.
In I Corinthians 9: 24-27 (NLT), Paul compares the Christian life to that of an athlete training to win a race. To me, I see this as sort of a blueprint for competing in God’s Olympics.
24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
Just like in the Summer Olympics, Paul tells us in verses 24 & 25 that in God’s Olympics we need to be disciplined in our training to prepare to win the race. The Christian life requires discipline, training, perseverance, and endurance. At the end of verse 25, we find the key difference in God’s Olympics – Christians run for God and for an eternal prize – eternal life, while athletes in the Summer Olympics run for medals. Medals have no eternal value. In fact, medals could be sold on eBay. You are not going to find eternal life for sale on eBay. In verses 26 and 27, Paul tells us there should be purpose in every one of our steps. That purpose is the furthering of God’s Kingdom and the spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The focus is not on us, but in the God for which we run. And we must be disciplined in our focus on this mission. If we persevere, endure, and focus our life on these purposes, then our reward for competing in God’s Olympics will be eternal life. Now that is a race worth winning!
Faith Gauge Questions:
Have you trained and are you prepared to be able to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others?
Are you focused on God’s Olympics and finishing the race to win the eternal prize?
Do you have any questions or comments? I would love to hear them – please leave a reply below. Thanks.
One fun question – which Olympic sport are you most excited to watch over the next 2 weeks? For me it is swimming.