1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (New International Version)
24 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 someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
WOW what a great 17 days! Regardless of the sport, it has been fun cheering along with my family. I haven’t watched this much TV since.... well.... the last Olympics. Now it is time to get some rest and reflect on what we have experienced. I sure have enjoyed the Olympics these past weeks. Many of the stories are inspirational and encouraging. We see the story of life portrayed in the ups and downs, the striving, the unexpected twists and turns, and even the grit in picking oneself up and continuing.
One of the things I really enjoyed this year is the emphasis on the parent support, especially mothers. Proctor and Gamble produced this commercial honoring all that moms do to help their children succeed. It brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it.
Those spots remind me to express my thanks and be grateful for those behind the scenes. The teacher that comes in three weeks early before school starts to get her classroom ready and to write welcoming notes for her students. The man who walks the pews after church straightening up the mess left behind by others. People who pray for strangers and give to food banks. So many everyday Olympians.
I remember seeing a video featuring the Olympic Gold Medalist and figure skating commentator Scott Hamilton, One of my all-time Olympians. He shared his story and how the faith and support of his mother and his wife held him up in rough times and opened his heart to God. He reviewed his life especially after he faced cancer - twice and how it changed how he prays.
“Who would I have been without a brain tumor? I could choose to look at it as debilitating or focus on the suffering. I choose to look at my brain tumor as the greatest gift I could have gotten - it made everything possible. The only true disability in life is a bad attitude.”
It is amazing the lessons that surround us when we open our eyes and hearts to see, hear and learn them?
Another thing I have enjoyed is hearing the stories of the many challenges and obstacles that some of the athletes had to face on their way to becoming an Olympic athlete. It is inspiring to see the dedication that they have made, along with their families, to be able to represent their country. Whether it was watching a man run with prosthetics, to hearing how an athlete had to overcome numerous physical injuries, to hearing how a mother scrapped for every penny to finance her daughters Olympic dream, the Olympics are a reminder of the sacrifice it takes to earn an Olympic medal. It is no wonder when an event is over to watch a grown woman or man break down in tears. The countless hours of training that requires intense discipline, and the weight of knowing you represent an entire nation, would certainly bring an emotional response from anyone. I remember the other day watching the US women’s gymnastics team receive their gold medal. As the American flag was raised and the national anthem began to play, I felt an inner sense of pride that I was American. Even though I did not participate, at that moment there was an emotional connection with those young girls who were representing my nation.
There were certainly many stories that are a great reminder of how important dedication, discipline, determination and desire are not just in sports but also in life. However, I also think that the Olympics are a great reminder of some important spiritual lessons. Perhaps the greatest one is that as followers of Jesus Christ we are also in a competition, and just like Olympic athletes we have to make sure that we have a good spiritual training program in place. Things like reading God’s Word daily, praying, and removing those things in our lives which does not produce godliness are essential to anyone’s spiritual training program. The question for each of us is what is your spiritual training program? What are you doing in your life to prepare you for the race that is marked out for you? Every time you admire an athlete who receives a medal, and you admire the strict training and sacrifices that he/she made to receive that award, remember that we too are competing for a medal. However, our medal is not made of gold, silver or bronze that will wear away with time; instead, we are competing for a medal that is eternal.
Dear Lord as we think about the Olympics and the dedication of the athletes to do their very best we pray today that we would make it our goal to do our very best for You. We pray that we would run the race that is before us and that we would keep our eyes on You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.