August 15, 2016
Don’t bother me right now; somebody’s about to win the gold.
Summertime productivity is always tough, but the quadrennial years are beyond reason: presidential mud-wrestling (the campaign) and worldwide competition (the Olympics) make it hard to focus on anything else on today’s schedule.
Over 10,000 athletes are in Rio right now, from 205 countries. They’re competing in 42 sports, with 306 separate events. Nearly 1000 medals will be carried home by winners, runners-up and third-placers; Americans have been fixated – so far – on Michael Phelps and Simone Biles, with occasional distractions like Usain Bolt’s photo-finish in the 100 meters, and his signature pose after his victory…
Kids around the world are watching – and dreaming – as people not much older than they push themselves to the limit in synchronized swimming and beach volleyball; archery and mountain biking; fencing and field hockey; taekwondo and table tennis. Some of today’s watchers will be motivated to make the massive investment of time, energy and devotion to be wearing their country’s colors in August 2020 in Tokyo.
The Olympics are inspiring… but they’re not new. Launched in antiquity, the modern version was resurrected after 1500 years of cessation in Athens, in 1896. They have become a fixture of modern international life: individual and national pride is earned through fair and responsible means, allowing honor and recognition without abuse or violence.
How do you get to the winner’s platform, to hear your anthem and receive your prize? It starts with baby steps: begin to develop a baseline of physical fitness; find the field of endeavor in which you seem gifted and inclined; connect with a coach who can refine your performance and inspire your focus; sacrifice other distractions so that you can maximize your potential… and then give it your all. If you’ve got what it takes, keep your passport in your gym bag: you’re going to Japan…
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 9:23-25)
That’s about more than a membership at 24 Hour Fitness and a Saturday morning jog with your buddies. Paul didn’t try to inspire Kingdom heroism with sandlot softball and basement ping-pong; he likened individual engagement in eternal endeavors with the highest level of athleticism. No average amateur efforts were acceptable when a gold medal race was possible.
Let’s be honest: most Christians are content to drop in at God’s Gym (their local church) when nothing “better” draws them away. As long as they work up a sweat and get their heart rate up for 65 minutes – from the opening prayer warm-up to the closing prayer cool-down – they feel like they’ve earned an honorary medal for just showing-up in the proper workout clothes.
What stands between the gym-rat and the gold medal? It mirrors the journey from church-attendance to winning the crown that lasts forever: make the crucial reset from watching to doing. Believe that God made you to win the prize. Find the performance implied by your divine design. Put yourself in touch with a coach who knows how to develop and challenge you to engage beyond your comfort zone, and reach toward your potential. Begin to produce and see results. Win some chrome-plated plastic trophies in hometown performances… and believe that God has made you to make a difference.
Untold millions of hours – and billions of dollars – were expended to convene the XXXI Olympiad. What investment is warranted in preparation for the awards platform – the BEMA seat of 2 Corinthians 5 – at the end of this era?
I don’t know about you, but I’m working on taking home the gold in my race…