The Olympic Games are about to conclude, and soon the iconic torch will be extinguished for another four years. Before that happens though, there are still opportunities to witness amazing courage, soaring victories, and inspiring acts of nobility from the athletes involved. One could almost call it a metaphor for the Christian journey. In fact, for those who watch carefully, the Olympics can reveal essential truths on becoming a better Christian. If you’ve chosen to run the race for Christ, you’d do well to remember these five pieces of wisdom,
You Can’t Do This Alone
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. - Proverbs 27:17
People, particularly Americans, tend to put a high value on independence. We believe everyone should solve their own problems, and asking for help is usually seen as a sign of weakness. At first glance, the Olympics appears to reinforce this idea. Athletes will step up to the mat and perform amazing feats all on their own. Take a moment to listen to their stories however, and you’ll realize this is far from true.
All of these athletes had coaches to train them, teammates to encourage them, and families to support them throughout their journey. Regardless of the sport, nearly all of them declare they could never have gotten this far on their own. The same rules apply to Christians. We need each other for leadership, fellowship, and inspiration. Alone we can do very little, but together, we have the ability to become so much more!
We All Start Somewhere
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. - 2 Peter 3:18
Olympic athletes can be intimidating. They’re strong, fast, agile, almost superhuman at times, and when you find out one of them is your age or younger, it can make you question your own potential. Still, none of these champions started out as the people they are now. That world-renowned swimmer began as an awkward teenager who could barely tread water, while that celebrated gymnast once had trouble doing a somersault. It took years of dedication and training for them to reach this point, and it takes a lifetime of work for someone to follow Christ.
All Christians begin somewhere, whether it’s in a Sunday school with felt boards, or picking up a Bible after years of apathy. Living as a believer takes time and study, but even the oldest and wisest of us are discovering how little we still know about God. Don’t be afraid of humble beginnings, this is where Jesus meets everyone.
Failure is Inevitable
For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity. - Proverbs 24:16
If the Olympics teach us anything, it’s that even the best athletes don’t always win. A gymnast who won a gold medal one night can stumble and fall the next. The fastest man alive can be beaten by a nameless competitor. No matter how good you are, nobody wins every time. It’s a hard lesson many Christians still struggle to accept.
There’s an old saying, “God expects more failure from you than you expect from yourself.” There is going to come a day when you fail as a Christian. When that day comes, what’s important is that you accept your mistake and learn from it. True Olympic winners remember their faults and use them to get better. Christians should do likewise.
Give it Your All
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. – 1 Corinthians 9:24
When someone qualifies for the Olympics, you know they’re not just going for the scenery. This is the apex of competition, a literal once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for most contestants. So when their moment comes, do you think they’re going to give a halfhearted performance? Of course not! Even if they don’t expect to win, these athletes give everything they have to achieve their goal.
For Christians, every day is our Olympic event. The world is watching, and we have to decide how we are going to live. We can choose to be token believers, to say the words but withhold the actions, or we can give everything we have to God. We may never see a podium, but by living for Jesus, the world will see His victory in our lives.
Winning Isn’t Everything
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. – Matthew 6:33
One of the most celebrated Olympians of all time is a sprinter by the name of Derek Redmond. Redmond never won a medal, in fact he’s remembered for coming in dead last, but how he finished the race is still etched into the world’s collective memory. Midway through his semifinal event, Redmond tore his hamstring and fell to the ground in terrible pain. Rather than allow medics to carry him off the field, Redmond limped his way to the finish line supported by his father. A crowd of over 65,000 spectators gave him a standing ovation.
How we finish the race is vastly more important than winning it. As Christians, we need to live every day as if it’s our last, and be mindful of the legacy we’ll leave behind. Will people remember us as someone who helped the needy, who showed compassion to the outsider, or will they be glad to forget us when we’re gone? Remember, God does not judge a man by his strength or glory, the LORD looks at the heart.