The countdown is on! You might be wondering; ‘What countdown?’ Well, it’s only the biggest sporting event on the planet (according to the website J). In roughly 110 days, more than 10,000 athletes from 206 countries will come together in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games.
You can bet the athletes are counting down. I can only imagine the preparation that must go into training and being ready to compete at the international level. The level of self-discipline required by the athletes leading into such an event must be astounding. And how can you not admire their determination and focus? Everything they do is with the end goal in mind – winning.
With their eyes firmly on their goal, athletes are prepared to work hard, to make many sacrifices, and to go without. But they must believe it is all worth it, otherwise surely they wouldn’t bother.
Jesus and the Apostle Paul used the image of an athlete training to race many times when talking about the Christian life. And there are many similarities. Just as a sprinter sees the goal and lets nothing distract him; so to, as followers of Christ, we are to make Christ our focus. Our goal is to become as Christ-like as we can in this life, and then, ultimately, to be made perfectly Christ-like in heaven. Philippians 3:13-14 says “...But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
And just as an athlete knows that some things are counter-productive and even harmful to their training and preparation (e.g., bad foods, laziness, lack of sleep), so it is for Christians. In Hebrews 12:1-2 Paul says, “...let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith…”
1 Corinthians 9:25-27 also tells us, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
So, come the month of August, there will be some athletes who are winners. There will also be many, many athletes who are not. Either way the race has been run. It is over. And one day our race will be done; our life will be over. It is my prayer that when that time comes, you and I can say, as Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Therefore, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”