We are currently in the midst of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Top athletes from 204 countries around the world are competing this year. You may ask what the point of the Olympics is. Is it to see which country is the most athletic and get the most medals? No, that’s not quite it. First, I’ll give some insight on the ancient Olympics. The first Olympic Games, in 776 BC, were originally intended to honor Zeus and other deities in Olympia, as well as resolve the constant civil war among the Greek city-states. Only free born male citizens were eligible to participate. They began training as early as one year before the games and then a month before the games they were required to move to Elis or Olympia for final training. At most, there were only 14 events in four days, compared to the current 36 games in 17 days, which could only be observed by free men. The first day of the games began with a sacrifice to the gods, for the games were meant as religious tributes. What did the winners get? A crown of olive branches and a statue erected in their honor, to each winners likeness. The Greek games eventually were forbidden in the year 393 by the Christian emperor of Rome, Theodosius, due to its Pagan influences. In 1896, a Frenchman re-established the Olympics. Why were the Olympics chosen to be set in August? Because the nights were long so the games could be played well into the night.
In 2012, the point of the Olympics is for countries to get together for international cooperation, not religious purposes. Both male and female athletes are eligible to compete and the games continue to be played every four years at different cities around the globe. The competitors win gold, silver, and bronze medals and media attention.
We’ve recently heard that one of the top American gymnasts, Gabby Douglas, who is just 16, credited her ability to defy gravity to God. How great is it that she was unafraid to declare God’s name to an international audience! According to NBC, Douglas said:
“I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory
goes up to Him and the blessings fall down on me.”
Seeing the Olympians should remind us that, as Christians, we are running our own Olympics for God. We each have our own special spiritual gifts God gave us. Instead of competing against each other for gold, silver, or bronze medals, we are working together to bring others to Christ. We are fighting this fight, running this marathon, for the reward of everlasting life in Heaven.
“Endure hardships with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian
affairs-he wants to please his commanding
officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive
the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.”
-2 Timothy 2:3-5
I have two brothers who both served in the military. My older brother was in the Marine Corp. and my twin brother is currently in his third year of an eight year contract with the Army National Guard. What happens when they disobey the rules? They have the possibility of being dishonorably discharged. There have been many Olympians disqualified due to rule breaking. What happens when you disobey God’s rules? You are discharged and kicked out from the kingdom of God, just as Satan was, unless you repent before your death or the second coming of Christ. You won’t retrieve the crown of righteousness unless you play life by God’s commandments and orders.
“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 a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.
No, I beat 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 9:24-27
The Olympic athletes only get temporary treasures. Who are the players of the games that Paul is talking about in his letter to the church at Corinth? The players of the Olympic Games. They only get temporary treasures: crowns of olive branches and statues that are destroyed. Today, they receive medals that can rust or be stolen. They train for months, and even sometimes years, only to earn something that can be destroyed (Matthew 6:19). Paul makes a terrific point that they spend all this time to earn something that does not last. So why don’t we spend our life fighting fleshly desires and earning something worth so much more than a gold medal (Matthew 6:20)? We are in the same type of training spiritually. We are running in the Olympics of God’s Kingdom. We train by reading his word, through prayer, through fellowship and coming together with the body of Christ and his people. We also have to discipline ourselves by not doing things that are unhealthy for our spirit. We too need to train, be around similar spiritual athletes and will be on display in a way that people will admire our love and dedication for God’s Olympics and His Kingdom! Don’t live life without a destination in mind. Strive to be rewarded with a place in Heaven-a prize that lasts for all eternity.