As I have been watching some of the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia I have been seeing some thrilling performances by the world’s best athletes as they are keeping alive the traditions of the Olympic Games that were begun in Greece thousands of years ago.
I have also been thinking of how the Apostle Paul could have been watching the Olympic-style Isthmian games near Corinth, Greece when he became inspired to write:
“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 do it to receive a perishable wreath. But we an imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25 NASB)
In other words, when Paul was watching the athletic competitions and saw how the athletes had gone through an enormous amount of training and self-control in order to produce a performance that could win them a perishable wreath of plant branches, then Paul started thinking of the imperishable wreath that God would give him when he victoriously finished his race of physical life.
When Paul thought that he was nearing the end of his physical life, he proclaimed: “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 me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
In those verses Paul is exhorting Christians to imitate Olympic athletes by having an intense drive to victoriously win their race of life by staying true to their Christian principles during the rest of their journey of physical life.
In order to do that Christians need to have a good working knowledge of God’s principles for living found in the Bible, use the power of the Holy spirit to help them live according to those principles, and have the winning attitude of an Olympic athlete that says with God’s power they can overcome the many problems that they will face during the rest of their journey of physical life.
Just as the Olympic athletes have large crowds cheering them on to victory, the writer of the book of Hebrews declares that Christians also have a heavenly crowd cheering them on to victory:
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance [heavy weight], 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 our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Just as the vision of winning a gold medal motivates Olympic athletes to produce their best performance in their competition, so also Christians should be motivated by the vision of victoriously completing their physical life, receiving the prize of the crown of righteousness, and as they stand at God’s judgment of their life hear Jesus proclaim: “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . enter into the joy of your Master” (Matthew 25:11) as Jesus welcomes them into Heaven where they will have a place around God’s throne and sing the victory songs found in Revelation 5:9-14”!