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5 Ways to See God's Wonder through the Olympics

5 Ways to See God's Wonder through the Olympics

The Olympic Games inspire us every time athletes around the world gather for another Olympics. Racing swimmers, jumping volleyball players, and tumbling gymnasts mesmerize us during the summer games. Dancing ice skaters, spinning snowboarders, and speeding skiers captivate us during the winter games. The fascinating stories of the Olympians’ personal journeys are as exciting as their sports competitions. Beyond all that, however, the Olympics reveal something greater: God’s wonder. Glimpses of God shine through the Olympic Games even brighter than a gold medal. Here are 5 ways to see God’s wonder through the Olympics:

1. The Olympics spotlight the global human family that God has wonderfully made.

The Olympic games bring people around the world together with goodwill. As people prepare to celebrate, they pass the Olympic torch through different runners on its way to the Olympic stadium, where they light the torch in a ceremony that expresses the mutual joy of participants from many nations. Seeing the diverse parts of humanity connecting to pursue positive goals reminds us that we can all “… kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name”, as the Apostle Paul prayed in Ephesians 3:14

The Olympics helps us learn more about international cultures and feel a sense of kinship with our fellow human beings throughout the world. All of us are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) by God. Revelation 7:9-10 describes people from every part of humanity worshiping God in heaven together: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” Inspired by the wonder of our connections in God’s global family, we can pray that people from each nation will join us in heaven one day.

2. The Olympics highlight the wonder that can happen when God’s people use their time and talents to the fullest.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms,” 1 Peter 4:10 urges us. While watching the Olympic Games, we see some of the world’s most talented athletes use their talents to bring joy to others. It’s awe-inspiring to see how God has gifted people, how they have developed those gifts through dedicated training, and how they faithfully put those talents into action at the Olympics. In my book Wake Up to Wonder, I describe how the wonder I experienced from the Olympics changed my perception of time and freed me to be fully present in each moment.

Wonder helps us enjoy and learn from what is happening right now. In the process, our sense of time expands, as well-being research in my book explains. Olympians who make the most of their time by developing and using their talents fully show us the value of using our own time and talents well. Just as Olympians do their best with their time and talents, we can also do our best with our God-given resources, and expect something wonderful to happen as a result.

3. The Olympics show the wonder of how faith in God inspires people to overcome fear.

Olympic competitions require athletes to boldly take all sorts of risks. They must have the courage to go for the highest level of goals in their respective sports, while under intense scrutiny and pressure to succeed. They often struggle with the fear that they’ll fall short of the physical and mental strength they need to win, or even to stay in the competition without getting injured along the way. Thankfully, many Olympians are people of faith who trust God to help them throughout their journey.

In Isaiah 41:10, God promises: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Watching faithful athletes rely on God to strengthen and help them shows us the wondrous power of faith to overcome fear. Whether they win a medal or finish last, Olympians show us the peace of Christ at work in their lives when they trust him. When they’re victorious, we get to celebrate along with them, with confidence that the truth of 2 Timothy 1:7“… God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” – applies to all of us who choose faith in God over fear.

4. The Olympics display the wondrous power of God’s grace at work in each moment.

Whether they win or lose, Olympic athletes learn to simply do their best and accept the outcome of their competitions. They can’t predict the results of their efforts, but no matter what happens, they go through the journey with grace. Sometimes their dreams come true, and they make it to a podium for a medal. At other times, they fall short of achieving their goals. Yet the sportsmanship and goodwill they show in the process point toward the wonder of grace that God offers us all. 

Olympic athletes who have relationships with God also show the powerful grace at work through their faith. When our own abilities and circumstances fall short of our goals, we can agree with God’s statement to the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” We can also learn contentment from the God who gives us strength, as Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-13: “… I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Olympic athletes who trust God show God’s graceful strength shining through their lives moment by moment during their Olympic journey.

5. The Olympics reveal the wonderful benefits of purpose and perseverance in the race of faith.

Olympic athletes must endure rigorous training and tough competition. They must stay disciplined and focused on their purpose, persevering through whatever challenges they face along the way. In the race of faith, we need to focus on our purpose and be disciplined about trusting God along the way so we can persevere until the end. “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. 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” 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 points out. 

Watching the Olympic Games, we see the wonder that results from the athletes giving their best. We cheer the Olympians on throughout their Olympic journeys because their stories spark wonder in our souls. We celebrate with athletes who win gold, silver, or bronze medals. We feel joy for athletes who finish their events with excellence, no matter how they placed in the results. As we do, we’re motivated to stay strong throughout our own faith journeys.

As the Olympics presents some of the world’s best sports competitions, it displays something even greater: God’s wonder at work. Experiencing that wonder can inspire us to live with Olympic-size faith.

Photo Credit: Bryan Turner/Unsplash 

headshot of author Whitney HoplerWhitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on Twitter and Facebook.