I love the Olympics! The competition, the stories, the excitement, I enjoy every bit. I cringe or gasp at each fall. I fight tears at the wins and the backstories. I sit at the edge of my seat awaiting scores and results. It is an exciting two weeks, but that's all it is for me: two weeks every two years. For the athletes involved, it is their life. Every day, (I would even hazard to guess that every hour) they think about the goal of getting there, of winning that gold! Their lives are ruled by the game and the training. (What they eat and drink, how much they sleep, how much they work out, lift weights, practice, and compete.) They live a regimented, restricted life that to these athletes is well worth the sacrifice to reach their goal. They overcome injuries, setbacks, and losses.
So often what I see in the world reminds me of scripture, and such is the case with the Olympics. Words we commonly hear in Olympic headlines include determination, training, overcome, goal, and reward. Paul writes frequently of goals and races, and in the sermon on the mount, Jesus says "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven." Matthew 5:12a
A few of the other scriptures that we can apply to the Olympics and learn from follow.
Hebrews 12:1-3Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The world watches the Olympics, literally! This drives some athletes, but they must focus on their event and their goal. They look to past medal winners for inspiration. We must focus on Jesus and look to the many examples in His Word for inspiration.
Philippians 3:12-14Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider my self yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Athletes must not think about past mistakes and losses, or even of past wins; they must push forward, not stopping until they have accomplished that for which they came. Our works do not grant us salvation, only the grace of God achieved on the cross can do that; however, He has beautiful blessings awaiting us if we follow Him, pressing forward to that for which He has called us: loving Him, serving Him, furthering His Kingdom.
1 Cor 9:24-26Do 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. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
These athletes train hard, and the best of the best do receive their medal. A beautiful and worthy prize it is, however it is not eternal! God promises us eternal life through His son, Jesus; and as if that were not enough, He offers eternal rewards. We must train--through prayer and scripture, obeying God's Word and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Each race is different, but with His guidance, He will get us to the finish line and our promised reward in Heaven!!