Going for the Gold!
- 2006 18 Oct
In 1936 Adolf Hitler planned to use the Olympic Games as a showcase for his Aryan ideology-that only people of Indo-European stock were fit for the "master race."
Jesse Owens, an African-American college junior hadn't heard that only white Europeans were gifted enough to win Olympic Gold. Jesse, the son of sharecroppers and grandson of slaves, was hardworking, but poor. No loans or scholarships for black athletes back then. Yet, instead of getting bitter, Jesse just got better.
At a Big Ten track meet in Michigan on May 25, 1935, Jesse set three world records and tied a fourth-in one hour, with an injured back!
Jesse Owens became an obvious choice to represent the United States in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany-an African-American walking into a hotbed of Aryan racism.
By the time Jesse had finished performing in Berlin, even the Germans were cheering wildly for him. He won gold medals in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, the long jump, and the 400-meter relay, setting new world records in three of his four events.
Going for the Gold
Jesse Owens encountered much opposition on his way to the victor's stand at the 1936 Olympics. Poverty, segregation, racism-these obstacles and more might have kept a less determined athlete from staying the course and winning the gold. Even when he returned from the Olympics as a hero, he found himself on the outside of fame, fortune, and respect in still-segregated America.
Athletic endurance and the race of the Christian life have much in common.
First, there is the legacy of the games. They began no later than 776 B.C., were abolished in A.D. 393, and revived in 1896.
A 2700-year-old legacy is something to live up to. But the Christian has a longer legacy-one of faith dating back to the First Family of humanity, Adam and Eve. Their son, Abel faithfully pursued the things of God (Hebrews 11:4). And Christians today run the daily spiritual race before a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1).
Then, there is focus. Ancient Greek athletes, groomed from childhood to compete in the Games, spent the last thirty days before judges, training and performing to see who would get to compete in a single, winner-take-all event.
The writer to the Hebrews picks up this Greek athletic motif when he says we ought to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Third, there is the prize. The only prize in the Games was an olive wreath, worn as a symbol of victory. Christians can expect a crown if they run the spiritual race to win: Athletes' crowns are perishable, Christians' are imperishable (1 Corinthians 9:25). And there are crowns of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8), life (James 1:12), and glory (1 Peter 5:4) which the faithful receive.
Finally, there is the celebration. Gold-medalists' say nothing compares to standing on the victor's stand while listening to one's national anthem.
But for the Christian, think of the celebration yet to come in heaven! Gold medals will be replaced by streets of gold (Revelation 21:21). National anthems will be replaced by never-ending anthems of praise to Christ the King, sung by all the inhabitants of heaven (Revelation 5:6-14). And in worship, all the crowns we have won in the spiritual race on earth will be cast before the throne of Jesus Christ in honor of Him (Revelation 4:10).
Getting in the Race
Every Christian is in the race: The Christian life is the race! If you're not a Christian, enter the race, set your sights on the imperishable prizes at the end. Many have finished as victors, and you can, too. Throw off whatever may hinder you from crossing the finish line full of faith. And get ready to sing as we give up our prizes for the glory of the One in whose steps we follow.
We may never participate in this earth's Olympic Games, but we can run "our race" to win. I'm going for the true gold-are you with me?
This article was excerpted from Turning Points, Dr. David Jeremiah's devotional magazine. Call Turning Point at 1-800-947-1993 for your complimentary copy of Turning Points.