For two weeks this summer the entire world focused on London while the Olympics took place. This brought to mind how often Paul reference athletics in comparison to Christianity. The more I studied, the more I realized just how much Christians are like Olympic athletes.
Training Begins Before the Games
As Christians we need to have developed our convictions and trained our reactions before we are challenged. Olympic athletes do not arrive to compete without years of training and practice in their sports. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 4:7b-10:
Rather train yourself for godliness, for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
We are not going to become godly by accident, but by training. Training takes work (“toil” in the verse above) and many attempts (“strive” in the verse above). As Christian parents, training should begin in the home. Teach your children Christian character, value, and godliness while under your protection before they face true challenges.
Events at the Games
- Long Distance Running. Any runner will tell you that when running for a long distance the key is your pace. Starting out too quickly will lead to a lack of energy to finish the race. Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 that runners must have self-control. As Christians, we must add self-control to our training to finish strong.
- Synchronized Swimming. In the water, synchronized swimmers must be perfect mirrors of each other; there must be no noticeable differences from their movements to how they look. John calls us to be in perfect synchronization with Jesus, “Whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked” (1 John 2:6). Our steps should be perfectly synchronized with the Lord’s.
- Archery. As an archer, your arm should be an extension of the arrow– one long, unified line. As Christians, we should be unified with other believers. Paul tells us to be one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and one Father (Ephesians 4:5-6). This list is a long line of unity connecting believers to each other and to God.
Fencing. When you arrive to compete at the Olympics, you need a sword (actually called a foil in fencing) that is familiar, whose weight and design feels like an old friend. As Christians, Paul tells us to take up our “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” To be ready for battle, the Bible should be familiar as well. If you do not know the Word, you will lose your match.
- Weightlifting. The amount of weight that the men and women can lift at the Olympics is astounding! But as Christians, we are called to lift an even heavier load: one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). Many times our own burdens are difficult enough to carry, but if Christians are to cross the finish line, we must support and help each other.
- Gymnastics. The goal in every gymnastics event is to “stick the landing” which means you do not move, not even one little step. As Christians, we are commanded to “stick the landing” as well. In 1 Corinthians 15:58, Paul tells us, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (emphasis mine) Our faith must be as firm as a perfect score in gymnastics.
God Makes Us Golden
Some of the greatest moments of human achievement and athleticism occur at the Olympics, but none exemplifies what God does for us more than Great Britain’s Derek Redmond’s semifinal race in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. [Editor's note: Below is a video of Derek Redmond's race. If it does not load, try reloading the browser page]
God watches all of us struggle under the injury of our sin. Then, He comes down and helps us finish the race. His power (Philippians 4:13) is how we win; not gold, silver, or bronze medals, but all win first place. Those who finish with the Lord receive the prize of Heaven. His power, His love, His sacrifice makes us all golden.
By Chelli Guthrie
Chelli and her husband, Luke, work with the Abell St. church of Christ in Wharton, Texas, where Luke is the pulpit minister. Chelli teaches the Jr. High class on Sunday mornings and leads the Children’s Bible Hour program on Sunday nights. She is a full-time mom who homeschools their three children: Grace (8), Sophia (4), and Levi (2). Her blog is www.theplantedtrees.blogspot.com.