The 2012 summer Olympics started this past weekend, and for the first time I can remember, I sat down with a group of friends and started watching the swimming. I’ve never been much of a sports supporter, much less the Olympics, but one of my friends is a fan of Ryan Lochte and enthusiastically spoke of him. Consequently, I ended up watching a little documentary about how he trained for the Olympics.
In the documentary, they interviewed Lochte and showed footage of some of his training exercises. He was clearly motivated, devoted, and driven to win, and for those of you who know, he had a tough competitor who currently holds the record of most gold medals Olympic medals (Michael Phelps). Knowing all this, Lochte set himself to years of strenuous self-disciplined training. His routine didn’t just involve swimming laps, but different sorts of activities that from an amateur’s point of view, such as myself, appeared to have nothing to do with swimming. His hard earned labor paid off, and he beat Michael Phelps.
Lochte clearly knew what he was in for, underwent the necessary training, and received due results. Who knows if he will keep this up or not, but whatever he has done is proving to be effective so far.
What struck me is that there always has to be one main winner. Only one person takes the gold for each event. I understand the politics involved with that, but it is sad for those who worked just as hard but do not get results. This brought my mind to the following passage from 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
If Christians were as focused, or even half as focused, on running the race of salvation as people who train for the Olympics, nothing could shake their faith. No one would be able to point to a Christian and find fault in them. A person who is labeled as an Olympian is distinct and lives up to their title, while Christians unfortunately do not, and thus have brought that title down to where it should not be.
There can only be one winner in the Olympics, and back in the apostle Paul’s day, they did not win a gold metal, but a crown of leaves, a perishable crown. Christians who run the race of salvation (as I like to call it) are ALL promised a crown of pure gold. Each one who has successfully completed the race will receive one. There are no categories of first, second, or third place. No silver or bronze crowns, everyone gets a gold one. If we understood the spiritual significance of this promise, how much more differently would we conduct ourselves once we take on the ‘Christian’ title?
I really like verses 26-27 were it says, “…Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” We don’t fight aimlessly for something that will not matter in heaven. We must subject our bodies to discipline now, just as Olympic trainers do. We’ve lost sight of the significance of this thought, and because of that, how many of us today would be disqualified to carry the title “Christian?”