I love watching the Olympic Games! It never ceases to amaze me how dedication and hard work can result in such incredible athletic feats and stunning performances. I love cheering on our Canadian athletes and feel national pride when they perform well enough to be awarded a medal. And since I grew up outside of Canada, I get to cheer for two countries, which means double the fun!
I find it interesting that a number of athletes mentioned in interviews that it’s their friends, family, support system, and cheering fans that keep them going and propel them to greater accomplishments. It’s the fuel they need to compete and finish well.
I believe this is what Hebrews 12:1-3 talks about, when it compares our lives as Christians to that of an athlete: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
The writers of the New Testament were very familiar with athletic competitions, as well as the Olympic Games, which had likely been going on for more than 600 years. They saw first-hand what it took to participate, race, and finish well. Just like athletes have to make numerous lifestyle choices and changes that are beneficial and will help them reach their goals, we also must choose to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”. Discipline is a word we don’t like to hear, but it is what conditions us for the race. Just like any good coach or trainer will often push their client past their limits to stretch and grow their abilities, we also are being “pushed” by our coach, our Father in heaven, to stretch, grow, and produce the right results. “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:11)
Finally, we have a role model to look up to and imitate. Jesus finished the race before us, and despite the incredible difficulties He had to push through, He set a perfect score in all disciplines and categories!
So what can we learn from the Olympics? We are in a race as well, a race that is eternally significant, a race that requires whole-hearted dedication, sweat, blood, and discipline. Slacking off is not an option. Toying with sin is not an option. Distractions are not an option. It also teaches us that it is just as equally important to cheer on the other “runners” in the race. They are being fueled by our encouragement. They need to feel our support to run well. And above all, our inspiration is Christ, who calls us to follow His example.
What can you do today to focus more on your spiritual “race”? How can you dedicate your whole life to this? What needs to be thrown off? What lifestyle changes need to happen?
Is there someone who needs your encouragement today? Who needs to hear your cheers as they struggle through a tough part of the course?
Let’s enjoy the Olympics and allow them to remind us that we are in the race of a lifetime, and that we have much work to do to finish well. Let’s aspire to imitate Jesus, who finished the race through tremendous hardship and discipline, so that we “will not grow weary and lose heart” when hard times come. Then let’s encourage our team mates to do the same.