The Summer Olympic Games are happening in Toyko, Japan this week. Over 11,000 athletes from all over the world representing 206 countries are competing for their homeland and prestigious gold, silver, and bronze medals. Each athlete represents countless hours of practice, sacrifice, and dedication to their sport. They discipline themselves through diet and exercise in such a way to become one of the best in their game. The training is both physical and mental as they push their bodies to the pinnacle of excellence.
There are several parallels that can be made between the Olympic athlete and the Christian believer. The Bible speaks about them either directly or indirectly as relating to the Christian life. Let’s take a look at 4 areas that the Christ-follower can learn from the Summer Games athlete.
The Commitment and Sacrifice
The commitment and sacrifice the Christian must make is ultimate. Jesus calls us to leave everything and follow Him. The athlete is said to have “left everything out on the floor” or in other words, not holding anything back or giving 100%. Luke 9:23 says, “…If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” In Bible times when someone took up their cross, they were on their way to die. Christ calls us to die to ourselves and our sinful desires and live for Him. Deitrich Bonhoeffer said: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” As the athlete denies himself anything not beneficial to his training, the Christian likewise, is daily saying “no” to self and “yes” to God.
Diet and Exercise
Prayer, Devotions, Bible Reading, and Fellowship all go into the life of a Christian. The “food” of our faith is a steady diet of God’s word, the Bible. Prayer is an open channel of communication to our heavenly father. Similar to having a good parent or a coach, God is our greatest influencer and encourager. It’s vital that we stay in contact with Him. Fellowship comes from joining other believers in their Christian walk. It can come from Sunday church, mid-week studies, or special one-time events. That fellowship sharpens our Christian walk or “run” just like other competing athletes make each other better.
Run in Such a Way
Olympic athletes and even entire countries have been disciplined and even removed from the Games due to cheating and disobeying the rules. Paul writes to the Corinthian Christians, “…run in such a way to get the prize…I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to them, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” The New Testament contains examples of some people who started out well, but didn’t finish the race. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit. The immoral brother in 1 Corinthians 5 was to be “handed over to Satan.” Jesus himself said, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” We must keep a strict eye upon our faith and persevere until we reach the very end.
The Bible speaks of salvation, heaven, treasure, and rest as the final gifts from God. It also talks about a “crown” waiting for those who have “stood the test, In James 1:12 we read, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” Jesus says in the final book of the Bible, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.” Gold, silver, and bronze are all precious medals and metals, but they will perish with time. What God has in store for the believer is eternal, priceless, and to be desired above all else.