February 11, 2014

"The Games"

I admit it. I absolutely love the Winter Olympics. Like, to the point where I try and schedule my life around these couple of weeks – making sure I get to see the downhill skiing, the speed-skating, the luge and skeleton, and pretty much any other sport that is performed on a cold, white surface (and which I don’t follow in the least during the rest of the four year cycle between winter games!). Somehow nostalgia from my childhood, and my affinity for geography, and the joy these cozy evenings bring our children has me all aflutter inside (and humming the Olympic theme music!) during these two weeks in February. In a few days, when it is all over, I will feel palpably melancholy at the thought that we must now wait another four years to enjoy it all again.

But in the meantime, I get to roll out the obligatory ‘lessons from the Olympics’ blog post. And, though predictable, maybe it will still also prove helpful! So here goes. A few lessons from “the games”:

The first is simply this (from 1 Corinthians 9.25): “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.” Listen to the athlete’s stories to which NBC sometimes breaks away – the years of hard work, dedication, sacrifice, lifestyle choices, etc. It’s convicting isn’t it? Shouldn’t we be all the more serious about striving for spiritual victories and eternal rewards? O that we Christians, like these athletes, would “run in such a way that [we] may win” (1 Corinthians 9.24)!

The second lesson from the Olympic Games comes from 2 Timothy 2.5 – “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules.” Watch the Olympics enough through the years, and you will find this true. Occasionally an athlete is disqualified from an event, or stripped of his or her medals, for breaking certain rules. And so these Olympians must be scrupulous about compliance – even when it is difficult and the short cuts are tempting! And again, as those seeking eternal reward, ought we not be all the more so – careful and thorough in our obedience to the laws of our God, even when doing so brings about “hardship” (2 Timothy 2.3)?

Finally, the Olympics – and especially the opening ceremonies – remind me, just a little bit, of the throng that will be gathered someday in heaven, “from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Revelation 7.9). Just look at all the colors and flags and skin tones and cultures parading into the Olympic Stadium … and you will see a tiny glimpse of what heaven will be. God is a global God! He is gathering Kazakhs, and Dutch, and Japanese, and Swiss, and Norwegian, and Jamaican, and people of every other stripe into His kingdom – so that the church of Jesus Christ, even now, is far more diverse than the Olympic village! And in heaven we’ll finally see them all in one place, under one great banner of Jesus Christ! What a parade of nations that will be!

Until then, we have the privilege of going out and gathering these varied nations and cultures together by means of the gospel. And that is a task that deserves Olympic-level effort, discipline, hard work, and obedience to God’s command. Let’s go out there and give it!

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