The closing ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea are only a few days away. And of course, there’s little doubt that many of you have been watching dozens of individual competitions as the globe’s best athletes skate, ski, and slide to the top of their specific sports. While we watch the dramas unfold from our comfy couches, many of us may have imagined what it would be like to have a gold medal hanging around our neck. However, few have any real understanding of the life commitment and training that all of these athletes (even the ones who don’t win anything) have made to reach the pinnacle of success.
I read somewhere that it’s not unusual for an Olympic athlete to spend 5-7 hours a day, six days a week honing their expertise. Besides actual work in their specific sport, a typical day includes weight training, diet regimes, flexibility routines, cardio/strength training, and a variety of other conditioning activities… all for the slim possibility of standing on a podium at the end of the games.
At this level of competition, there just aren’t any who float in on natural talent alone. They have to work hard at it, which means choosing to say ‘no’ to a lot of other things that they’d probably much rather do. I’m sure there are many days that these top athletes loathe getting up before dawn and putting on their skates, or skis, pulling out their snowboards, sticks and other equipment for yet another slide across the ice or run down a mountain. And even though, (aside from momentary and fleeting fame,) most Olympic events have little monetary reward, it’s these athlete’s commitment to excellence that makes them go through their routines one more time anyway. They know that to break their training regiment will ultimately steal their dream and relegate them to a side-bar in the “also competed” column.
You know, for believers in Jesus, it’s important to remember that godliness takes effort too. You’re not going to just wake up one day and magically find yourself more in step with God’s ways than you were the day before. The pull of the world is just too strong in the other direction. Instead of a lackadaisical attitude, New Testament exhorts believers to be “self-controlled, upright and disciplined” (Titus 1:8) and to “make every effort” to add faith, goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance and godliness to our lives. (1 Peter 1:4-6)
From these verses alone, we learn that believers need a similar attitude of diligence and commitment as Olympic athletes. But too often we allow how we feel about day to day events determine whether we follow through or not. Haven’t you at some point said, “I’m too tired to pray.” I don’t have time to read my Bible” or “We’ll just stay home from fellowship today.” Thi\s haphazard or “me-centered” approach to spiritual training and discipline undercuts our strength and weakens our ability to stand firm in our time of trial. And while seasons of down time are necessary (and even commanded), our commitment to “training in righteousness” (1 Tim. 3:16) must be purposeful, directed and unwavering.
So as another Olympic season draws to a close, allow the example you see in these athlete’s training spur you on to excellence in the only race that truly matters for eternity.
“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.”
I Corinthians 9:24-25