Lessons from the Olympics

Thanks to guest blogger Brad Harvey who leads a SENT small group:

I like to think I am not an Olympic fanatic. People at the office are always talking about the activities from the night before. I don’t get terribly involved in those conversations. As much as I may pretend to not be interested, I somehow end up flipping the TV on just to catch up on what’s going on. Two hours later, and an hour past my bedtime, I finally go to bed.

I try to walk every morning (I don’t always get up in time to get my walk in). I walk about 3.2 miles. I use a stopwatch as I walk to try to push myself to walk a little faster. Why? I guess I just feel the need to be competitive. I have noticed now that the Olympics are on, my times are improving. I find myself wondering what it must be like to be an Olympic athlete.

I have watched track and field events: how does a high jumper really get that high, and who was the first person to think that pole vaulting looked fun? I have watched gymnastics, astounded that the human body can twist and turn that far and that quickly.

I have watched athletes who have trained from perhaps the age of 5 or younger for this one moment in time. I watch them make one small error, and their hopes of an Olympic medal are gone. I have watched athletes express their disappointment over being only the second best in the world. It is hard for me to relate to those moments: I make errors (and not always small ones) on a daily basis, and I am happy to be the second best at anything in my own house.

As I watch the Olympics, I think of Hebrews 12:1. The Apostle Paul uses several sports analogies in his writings. Hebrews 12:1 says:

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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus …

Spiritually speaking, my goal is Jesus. I am not running my race for a Gold Medal, but for Christ. It is interesting to think that while I am living my life, there is a great cloud of witnesses watching and cheering me on. Sometimes just knowing someone is pulling for you makes all the difference.

One of the interesting stories of this Olympics has been the performance of the British team. They are third in the medal count. A fairly amazing feat for them. Perhaps it is because they have such a great “cloud of witnesses” to cheer them on.

If you can indulge me one more Olympic story. After the American Women’s Gymnastics team received their Gold medals, one of the team members took off her gold medal, and hung it around the neck of their coach. When she was asked why she did that, she said because he was the reason they won.

One of the scriptures from Paul that uses a sports analogy is I Corinthians 9:24 & 25:

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.

The good news for me (and all of us) is that someone already paid the price to make a way for me to receive a crown. All my efforts without Him would earn me nothing. All my efforts led by Him bring the crown.

In the 4th Chapter of Revelation, John writes of the elders taking the gold crowns from their heads and laying them at the feet of Jesus. After watching a young teenage girl take off her gold medal, and hang it around her coaches neck, I understand that passage a bit better. While their coach had much to do with their victory, Jesus has everything to do with my victory.

Just one of the witnesses cheering you on,

Brad Harvey