I found myself watching more of the summer Olympics this month than I have in many years. The Christian stories and testimonies surrounding this year’s games really peaked my interest. What a delight to see so many athletes acknowledging the One who gave them the desire and gift to compete! “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,” Colossians 3:23 NKJV.
I couldn’t help but listen to their stories of perseverance and endurance and think about the body of Christ. I found myself wondering about my (our) own discipline to excel in Christ. Do I (we) press through disappointment or pain or loss to keep competing with a determination not just to finish, but to finish well?
The Apostle Paul often wrote about competing in a race and comparing it to our course in Christ.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 AMP
And again, he wrote:
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14 NKJV
If those athletes rose to the challenge to press toward a prize, why shouldn’t we when we have been graced with His Holy Spirit to obtain an eternal crown?
The individual accomplishments were amazing, but I also found my attention riveted to the team events. They demonstrated to us anew that it isn’t just about a super star, but team work. How about the American relay runner that heard his leg bone break during his “leg” of the relay? He didn’t quit because it was a team event and he said that it wasn’t just about him. If he hadn’t finished his part of the race, the other team members wouldn’t have gotten their opportunity to participate. Reminds me of I Corinthians 12, where one part of the body can’t say to another part – “I don’t need you”. “Help me to remember this, Lord, when I hold back my gift or portion and don’t release it to Your body. It isn’t only about me finishing my race!”
As I watched one runner fall on the track and lie sobbing in disappointment, I wanted to see her get up and finish her race. She had made it to the finals (What an accomplishment!), but her disappointment kept her from crossing the finish line. Maybe if someone would have extended a hand or word of encouragement, she would have crossed the finish line. I think of the times that I have fallen and am grateful for His grace to get up again. “The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand.” Psalms 37:23-24 NKJV
We may never compete in the Olympics, Super Bowl or World Series, but we can aspire to finish like Paul. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:7-8 NKJV