Olympic fever has been running high at my daughter’s home in North Carolina. Though my granddaughters are only four, two and newborn, we have been sitting down together as a family to watch events in swimming, diving, archery, and gymnastics. (The video of the pool has been an amazing pacifier!) We have used live streaming as the means to catch the action, thus the commercials are often longer than the video coverage, but we have still enjoyed viewing the competition and cheering for the athletes.
As have many Olympic fans, I have taken to the Internet to garner facts about present competitors and prior champions. I happened on a site called How Stuff Works. They had an article highlighting the stories of “Five Amazing Olympic Athletes.” Though Michael Phelps did not make their list, four solo athletes and one two-man team did. The piece included participants from games that took place over a one hundred year plus span. I was already acquainted with Jesse Owens, a black athlete competing at the games in hostile 1936 Berlin. Hitler’s hatred and pride did not squelch Jesse’s athletic prowess and determination as he took four gold medals and set some amazing records in running and jumping events.
An athlete named George Eyser received six gold medals in one day as a gymnast, competing with a wooden leg! This was forty-four years before the Paralympics came into being in 1948. Two female athletes made the list: Larisa Latynina for her skill displayed as a gymnast in three Olympics. She collected eighteen medals, nine of them gold. Apparently she also won a slue of medals in World and European championships, some while she was pregnant! A female athlete named Babe Didrikson Zaharias was so talented she qualified in five sports, but due to the rules for women athletes in 1932, she was only allowed to compete in three. Consequently, she took home the gold in the javelin throw and the eighty-meter hurdles and a silver in the high jump. The list of sports in which she excelled covers a wide range of events including volleyball, tennis, swimming, diving, cycling and golf. Then there is the duo of Thomas Bimis and Nikolaos Siranidis who competed in Athens, Greece on the Greek Diving Team. Though not expected to medal at all, when someone from the crowd crashed through to climb up to the diving board and splashed belly first into the pool, with other competitors flustered by the incident, this pair did not lose their cool, and they took the gold in front of an ecstatic home crowd.
One thing that may be said of all these athletes is that they exceeded expectations. For whatever reason, whether it was the era in which they performed, the odds they faced, or the circumstances surrounding their event, each competed far beyond what was anticipated. They have sealed their place in the records of Olympic history as the epitome of what it means to be a champion. They trained, they fought hard, they stayed focused, they gave their all. They stand as examples of the way to compete and win.
The Bible uses language that evokes images of competition regarding the faith walk of a believer in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul said of himself, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” (2 Timothy 4:7, ESV). He encourages us in 1 Corinthians 9:24 saying, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” He also said, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own [attaining to the resurrection from the dead]. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 3:13-14, ESV). We receive further encouragement from the writer of Hebrews who said in chapter twelve, verses one and two, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God,” (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV).
Clearly, we are in a competition, not to win a place in heaven, but to be the best we can be for the glory of God and for the sake of His kingdom. We train, we fight hard, we stay focused, and we give our all. The Lord Himself is our example as 1 Corinthians 2:9, ESV states, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” He always exceeds our expectations, and for those who desire to be good and faithful servants, it is important that we strive for excellence to champion the cause of Christ. May we be counted as amazing in the race to which the Lord has called us!
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen,” (Ephesians 3:20-21, ESV).
A ministry note: I am so happy to report that those who have been in the studio with us working on the recordings for CDs three and four, have far exceeded our expectations and have given their all to create an excellent product. We have been especially in awe of the children and young people that have joined us. We can’t wait for the day that we will be sharing the results of their efforts with all of you. Way to go Godstruck Team!
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