Another Olympics has ended and the athletes and spectators are returning home. For some who stood on the podium holding their medals as their countries’ anthem played over the loudspeaker it was the dream of a lifetime.
For many more who never reached the podium – who never had a realistic chance of reaching the podium – it was an experience they will never forget.
The Olympics reminded me of the similarities that the Christian life has to an athletic endeavor. Several times the Bible describes the Christian life in athletic terms because the original readers of the New Testament letters were familiar with the Olympic idea.
Both Paul and the writer of Hebrews employ the imagery of the runner.
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. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24
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.
There are numerous applications to the Christian life that we can glean from these images.
-Living the Christian life in order to receive a reward is our motivation (knowing that we will give it all to Jesus in the end.)
-Self-control is essential to the success of the Christian life.
-The reward at the end of the Christian Life will be worth every sacrifice you make.
-If you’re going to live the Christian life successfully, you can’t give up when it gets difficult.
-You can’t win the race of the Christian life if you’re carrying excess baggage (sin).
-Without a long-term perspective the Christian life will be almost impossible to live.
-It’s essential to keep your eyes on the goal to finish the Christian Life well.
-The Christian life won’t be easy!
Maybe you can add some additional applications to this list.
The point is that Christians, like Olympians must train rigorously, deny themselves many enjoyable things, and be laser focused on one thing to be successful.
Stay in the Word