You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself. – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
The Olympic games in Rio ended yesterday. Not only did the games give us a welcome break from the political headlines, they also inspired us with some of the most remarkable athletic performances in history. And that’s really saying something because the Olympics have a long history! The first Olympic games were held in the 7th century BC. They were so influential in the first century that the language of the Olympic games is woven into Scripture!
The passage above, from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, contains more Olympic terminology than any other. And it reveals some important insights in our own life of faith. Here are just three of those insights:
Train to win. How do Olympic athletes do such extraordinary things and make it look easy? They train. Hard. Every day. If we want to forgive, love, give and serve as freely and fully as Jesus, we need to train too. That’s what spiritual practices are all about. Spiritual maturity doesn’t just happen.
Persevere. Olympic athletes don’t stop, even when the rowing, running, pedaling, tumbling, etc. gets hard. They don’t give up before reaching the finish line, even when they’re tempted to. Life can be tough. Really tough. Some days we’re tempted to just give up hope. Don’t. Persevere. Remember that you’re never alone, and the prize at the end of this race is worth persevering for!
Live with intentionality. Olympic athletes align their daily choices with their ultimate goal because they know that big success is the accumulation of every little choice. That’s true for Christ-followers too. Who we hang out with, what we feed our hearts and minds, how we steward all God has given us…these are just a few of the daily choices we make that impact how we run the race of life.
Most of us will never represent our country in the Olympics, but we all represent the Kingdom of God in the daily race of life. So train to win. Persevere. Live with intentionality. There’s far more than a gold medal in your future!
Need a little inspiration? Watch this.
What helps you train to win, persevere and live with intentionality?
Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN