The Olympics have come and gone for another four years and, as much as the Channel 7 commentary team has tried to hide it, the overwhelming feeling of these games has been one of disappointment for Australia. The broadcasters struggled to hide their disappointment as Australia slid further and further down the medal tally!
Interestingly, the Bible has a perspective that is far healthier than the Australian obsession with winning gold. The Apostle Paul knew about the games (perhaps he even attended an ancient version?) and he used the hardworking athlete as an example in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 –
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. 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. 26 Therefore I do
not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the
air. 27 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.
Obviously we should not push the analogy too far. Our place in heaven is not earned by our own efforts but is a free gift of grace won for us by Jesus at the cross.
However, the point Paul makes is that the Christian life is not one where we dawdle up and expect to be given a gold medal. Instead it requires hard work, commitment and dedication. As the rower or swimmer devotes themselves to hard work and training – so does the Christian. Our early morning laps are not in the pool but in the word of God and prayer. Our training partners are those we meet with in Christian fellowship. Most amazingly, our medal will never fade or be forgotten (who won the 100 metre breaststroke final at the Olympics? Anyone?). No, unlike Olympic gold, silver and bronze the crown of eternal life and a place in God’s kingdom lasts forever.