So have you been staying up too late for the past couple weeks watching the summer Olympics from London? I can see you nodding your head. Ours are nodding too. Probably many of us are suffering from sleep deprivation, but since the Olympics only come every four years, and because it is so fun to watch our nation’s best athletes compete against the rest of the world in such a variety of events, and because it is a time for great patriotism and pride in our country, we sacrifice a bit of sleep to watch the Olympic coverage. Many of us I’m sure were praying that the Christians who were competing would be bold in sharing their faith when given opportunity to do so, and many did before the many millions who were watching and listening. Our prayer now is that the seeds planted by them and by Christian ministries which were there in London may bear fruit in many lives.
As always, the athletes faced both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. It’s hard to imagine the disappointment to those who had trained so hard for so many months (most for years), only to come up short, or maybe to be disqualified by a false start, or to step out of bounds on a floor exercise in an otherwise flawless routine in gymnastics. While some Olympians were jumping for joy, others were crumpled and in tears.
One of the most exciting events for us was the final men’s diving competition, the 10 meter platform. The favorite to win was, of course, a Chinese diver, Qui Bo who was the reigning world champion (The Chinese had already won 6 of the 7 gold medals in diving). The crowd favorite who was considered Bo’s chief competition was local British hero, Tom Daley. David Boudia of the United States, who had placed 10th in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, barely made the cut, finishing 18th after the preliminary round. He managed to finish 3rd after the semifinal round.
The finals were filled with emotion and drama and a packed house that was pulling for the local hero, Tom Daley who was considered the one to give Qui Bo the most competition for the gold medal. But after the sixth and final dive of the round, it was David Boudia who ended up with the gold, beating Qui Bo by a narrow 1.8 points, Tom Daley taking the bronze medal. It was the first gold for the U.S. in the 10 meter platform since Greg Louganis dived in 1988. Greg, who has become a mentor to our divers, had the privilege of being there to witness the amazing finish.
After barely squeaking through the preliminary round, Boudia was interviewed for NBC, and shared that he knew God is sovereign and that the outcome is in His hands. In another interview, David shared that as a young boy he was scared of heights–in fact petrified, and when he first got up on the 10 meter platform it took some bribing from his mom topersuade him to dive from there. But, as he began to rely more on the Lord, he found a greater peace within–which surely was demonstrated in the London Olympic competition. During his interview with Bob Costas later, he said that the most important thing in his life was his faith (in Christ). I’m sure we will hear much more in the future both about and from David Boudia.
The Apostle Paul apparently had an interest in sports, particularly the Isthmian Games which were held every two years near Corinth, Greece and served as the beginning of our modern Olympics. He often made reference to athletic competition as an illustration of our Christian walk. When writing to the Corinthian believers he said, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (I Cor. 9:24-27). At that time the winners of the competitions received, not medals, but a wreath (or crown) of greenery which would soon wilt.
When you think of how much effort and training and sacrifice goes into just qualifying for the Olympics with the hopes of receiving a medal which is just a temporal, material possession, how much more should we who know Christ be motivated to be disciplined and striving to give God our all, knowing that our rewards in heaven are not temporal but eternal. That’s why Jesus told His followers during His Sermon on the Mount: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal” (Mt. 6:19,20. That’s why the writer to the Hebrew believers wrote this: “…lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” (Heb. 12:1,2).
Paul did that, and when it came to the end of his life, shortly before being executed by Nero and the Romans, he wrote this to his understudy, Timothy: “…the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing”‘
(II Tim. 4:6-8).
And, you don’t have to be the most talented, the most gifted, the best educated to win. You just need to be faithful and trustworthy (I Cor. 4:2). When Paul describes the Judgment Seat (Bema) of Christ at which we as believers will all give an account of our lives, he says that God will “test the quality of each man’s work” ( I Cor. 3:13). He doesn’t say God will test the quantity, but the quality of our work. God is looking for faithfulness to what He calls us to do, whether in our eyes, or from the view of others, it is a big or a little task. If we are going to “run to win” we must remain faithful to Him. And, as thrilling as it is to stand on the gold medal platform and hear your national anthem sung as the flag is raised, just imagine how much more fulfilling it will be to one day hear from the One who made us and redeemed us, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mt. 25:21)!