As a sporting tragic, I am loving the Olympics!
It’s an exciting global event testing testing strength, talent, and endurance of the participating athletes.
But even if you are not a sporting tragic like me, you can’t help but admire the determination, training, and dedication of these athletes! The dream of Olympic Gold has inspired these athletes to train for years to reach the pinnacle of their sport.
The Bible (particularly New Testament writers) uses sporting metaphors regularly to convey important aspects of the Christian life. So, with the Olympics well in train, I thought it would be timely to look at what it means to "Go for Gold” as a disciple.
1. Training: (1 Tim 4:7) “Train” (in the Greek) literally means to exercise naked; ancient athletes would strip off anything that would restrict physical movement and advancement in training. Likewise the Christian must remove all hinderances to spiritual growth (but please keep your clothes on!).
2. Obedience (2 Tim 2:5) An athlete has to compete according to the rules. No participant can simply invent their own set of regulations when they don’t like the rules of the game. Similarly, obedience to the Scriptures is required for everyone who runs the race of faith.
3. Self Control (1 Cor 9:25) Athlete's need to be masters of self-control, self-restraint and self-government; refusing to litter their body with junk food, and their mind with negative or corrupting thoughts. They must limit their freedoms and abstain from things that others indulge in to ensure that they are in peak condition for the race before them. Likewise, as believers we must guard our hearts and minds against toxic ideologies, conspiracy theories and false teaching, be trained in the word and sound doctrine (1 Tim 4:6), and feast on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matt 4:4).
4. Be in the race (1 Cor 9:24-27) Athlete’s can not win the race if they do not enter. The Apostle Paul often encourages Christians "to run the race", and to "strive forward focussed on the prize”, just like an Athlete if we do not enter we can not win the prize set before us.
5. Effort (1 Tim 4:10) An Athlete has to apply maximum effort in order to win their event; half hearted efforts have never won Gold at the Olympics! Likewise Paul says we must “toil/labour/strive” in the pursuit of holiness until we have nothing left to give.
6. Focus (Phil. 3:12) In order to win Gold an Athlete must be focussed on the task ahead - riveted to their goal; even the greatest competitors can lose momentum when distracted. Likewise Paul writes that we must "press on” meaning to move rapidly and decisively after the object of our faith; Our singular focus must be "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecto of our faith” (Heb. 12:2)
7. Endurance (Heb. 12:1-2) To win the Gold Athlete’s must push through, endure, persevere; to stop halfway, to give in when it gets tough, to quit, means to forfeit any hope of success. Likewise the Bible tells us to "run with endurance the race that is set before us” to “endure” to “persevere”, because to quit as a Christian is not an option for those wanting to win the prize set before us (1 Cor 9:24).
I was truly inspired this week by Australian 10,000m runner Patrick Tiernan who in the heat and humidity of Tokyo, mixed with the effort of his remarkable race, collapsed with only 180m to go. He collapsed 3 times before crossing the finish line. The next day he is quoted as saying “It’s a long way to come to fall short of your goal. I knew I was in trouble but was so close, you just have to will yourself across the line". His example of determination, focus and endurance will be a highlight of the Tokyo Olympics for many years to come. This is the kind of effort, focus and endurance that the New Testament writers are alluding to.
I was similarly impressed by the Fijian mens rugby 7’s team, who on winning the Gold medal, took none of the glory for themselves but immediately and publicly gave the glory to God! (Phil. 4:13) It is equally important to give God glory in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:16-18, Matt 10:32)
1 Cor. 9:25 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. If we are to run that we may obtain the prize, then we must compete like fully committed athletes in the Christian life. Sanctified sweat is required! But it will be worth it to receive the imperishable wreath from Jesus Christ.
Grace & Peace
Jen is an energetic and passionate disciple of Christ who loves to share Jesus with anyone who will listen!