The International Olympic Committee was formed in 1894 and the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896. Every four years, the IOC continues the tradition of the Olympic Games, named for the Greek city of Olympus where they were first held. The exact date when the ancient games began is uncertain, but it may have been as early as 776 BC when only one event was held, a foot race of approximately 200 yards called a stadium. In 724 a two stadia race was introduced and in 720 a one-mile race was run. In 708 wrestling and the pentathlon events (running, wrestling, leaping, discus throwing and javelin hurling) were introduced. Since then the events of the modern pentathlon have changed. In 688 BC boxing was added, and in 680 a race for four-horse chariots became a main attraction. Other events were added from time to time after that, among them, in 520, a race for men who were actually wearing armor!
The modern Olympic games have been held every four years since 1896, except in 1916, due to World War 1, and in 1940 and 1944 because of World War 2. This year, the games of the XXX (30th) Olympiad will be held in and around London, England from July 27 to August 12. And 205 nations will compete in 300 events!
The Perpetual Olympics
There are some “olympics” that are neither games nor periodic events; they are serious, constant confrontations and conflicts that occur during the whole life of the participants who enter the games at new birth! We speak, of course, of the Christian life which we enter by being born again by faith in our Savior Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul sometimes compared the Christian life to an Olympic contest. For example, he wrote this to his young protege, Timothy: “Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Tim. 6:12 NIV). His word “fight” is really the Greek word for an Olympic athletic contest.
In another place, Paul counseled his young disciple with these words: “Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:7-8). His word for “train yourself” means “discipline yourself” or “devote yourself to your training” – an absolute necessity in the physical conditioning for athletic competition as well as in conditioning for success in spiritual endeavors.
On another occasion, the apostle noted this: “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 Cor. 9:25). In the physical realm the benefit of training is limited and temporary, while in the spiritual realm, self-discipline and the “fight” promise success not only in the present life but also, and more importantly, in the eternal!
In 2 Timothy 2:5, Paul brought up a very important point: “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.” Sporting events are played by a set of rules. An athlete might be superbly trained, in the very best physical condition, and far superior to all competitors, but if he doesn’t compete according to the rules he is disqualified and wins no prize.
For example, an American runner, Marion Jones, was stripped of her gold medal for the 1600 meter relay race, and her bronze medal for the 400 meter race at the 2000 Sydney Olympics after admitting she had used performance-enhancing drugs. Additionally, Jones was sentenced to six months in prison for lying to investigators about her drug use (though she later confessed). Further, Jones’ three relay teammates were also stripped of their medals for the same races, though there was no evidence that they had used any performance enhancers.
There is a long list on the Internet of athletes from numerous countries who have been deprived of hard-earned medals because of drug use and other illegal Olympic behavior.
In the Christian life it is even more essential to both know and practice the rules prescribed in God’s Word, an indispensable and integral tool for our training that guides us in relating to other people and to our God.
Then we must throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the contest with every desire to win! “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” (1 Cor. 9:24). In contrast to Olympic events where only one gets the gold, every Christian can be a gold medalist.
Besides contending with all our strength and courage, we must fix our eye and mind on the goal – the ultimate object of the race. Paul, extraordinary “athlete” that he was, explained his technique: “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me … I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12-14).
In the Christian life, to “press on toward the goal” means to live by faith. Hebrews 11 gives us a long list of past champions who triumphed by faith. Their examples serve as encouragement, but our real source of inspiration to win comes through “fix(ing) our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). Jesus initiated the life of faith and demonstrated it at its highest level, practicing it superbly and flawlessly! “He endured the cross (His event of indescribable horror), scorning its shame (before angry, hateful, jeering spectators), and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (His goal). He allowed nothing to hinder His victory, and, in the language of the Olympians, won the gold!
In the Christian olympic race, the Lord Jesus Christ is our goal, and our reward. And He is also our inspiration, our ideal and our example.
Pep Talk For The Christian Team
Let’s close by reading this adaptation of Paul’s words of encouragement, in Romans 12:1-5, for all members of the Christian team.
“Teammates, please, by God’s grace, give yourselves over completely to Him, as a sacrifice, and in that spirit He will accept your complete and unreserved commitment. Don’t be distracted by the attractions around you which fill up your time and absorb the energies of others. Rather, concentrate your whole being on your training so that the Trainer will find you superbly conditioned and qualified for the contests. This will bring you great satisfaction, and rewards! Don’t be too proud of your own individual capacity or skill, but rather discipline yourselves to think and act as a team, coordinating and harmonizing your qualities and abilities with those of the others. After all, none of you excels or wins any gold on his own. But as each one puts forth his best effort on time and on cue, he helps the whole team, as a harmonious unit, respond exactly to the will and signals of the Trainer, to win and receive glory.”
By Bill Van Ryn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org