Many of us watched the Summer Olympics in London the past few weeks. Inspiring stories were shared about the athletes. Swimmers, divers, hurdlers, relays, volley ball, sprinters, gymnasts, etc competed for the medals, but only three winners were named in each category. But truly they all were winners in some way! I was reminded about the heroric feat of swimmer Jason Lezak in the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
He came from behind on the last lap to seal a victory for the U.S. 4 x 400 meter freestyle relay team. This assured Michael Phelps of setting the record of winning eight gold medals in one Olympic Game. Lezak said, "I was swimming for my teammates, I could not give up or let them down." (higher purpose than personal gain).
In the 2012 Games, many heroes tackled their sport with the same attitude: "I must cross the finish line - so many are depending on me". Oscar Pistorious, South Africa, ran the 4x400 meter relay 'without legs"; Sarah Attar, Saudi Arabia, became Arab woman to race fully robed; Allyson Felix, USA relay team member, gave "God the glory for being on the gold medal stand". Others thrilled the crowds by 'crossing the finish line' with their uplifted heads, knowing they were winners, having just run the race well. They came to represent their country! And they did it well! Many clearly gave a Christian witness while displaying their athleticism, sportsmanship and team spirit.
There is a challenge here for us. We are in a 'race for life", a marathon at that! Paul considered himself (and other believers) to be running a race for the Kingdom. He, like the Olympians, knew there were weights, clothing, baggage that would keep him from making his 'best times'. This is not what the Master Coach wanted. Paul encouraged his readers to "get rid of those things that entangle us, holding us back! Run the race to win and that means being committed to doing our very best for the team, the Coach and the Kingdom's witness. Did we not see the smiles on the platform as top winners proudly received their medals? We, too, should be proud to represent our Lord in every way. (Heb 12: 1-2).
The Games are history now and we will have to wait four years before getting tickets for Rio. But the race of life continues. We must run it with purpose and determination. We realize the race "is really not our race". It is "Christ working through us" that gives us the strength we need to carry on. Consistently, day-by-day, hitting the weights (obstacles in life), running the hills (daily assignments) and meeting the competition head-on (Satan lays traps all along life's highway! This is our life-time assignment. Paul, again, encourages us 'run the race, finish the course, and receive our crown." (1 Cor. 9:24-27).