Well, the games of the XXX Olympiad in London are under way. Apparently, I am not alone in that I saw clips of the Opening Ceremony and like so many others, I was really disappointed. I wish all the pomp and circumstance would go away and that they would get down to the business at hand – the competition. Many athletes skipped Friday’s Opening Ceremony due to early schedules in events they were competing in. In fact, several of the athletes stated that standing on their feet for 5 or 6 hours would really jeopardize their chances of a medal and would take too long to recover from in the Games.
We saw the US team in their uniforms “Made in China” and heard the story that Egypt decided to buy knock-off uniforms for their team because the real uniforms were too expensive. When Nike heard about this, they helped out and provided uniforms to the Egyptian team. I wonder if the real stuff was also made in China… Several sports apparently had preliminary heats before the festivities even began Friday.
It was humorous to see the Queen and James Bond (Daniel Craig) doing their skit about flying by helicopter to the Games and then skydiving into the stadium. The crowd seemed to love it, but I was sadly disappointed that the production for the entire evening was more than $43.2 million. Unbelievable, and frankly, it wasn’t very good. One person remarked that it was worse than last year’s program – of course, there was no program last year. Enough said…
One of the early events, the men’s bicycle race, covered more than 155 miles, up hill and down dale, and lasted about 5 hours. It was won in the last several hundred meters by a 37 year old rider from Kazazhstan, Alexandre Vinokourov, who is now the oldest Olympic cycling champion in history. And he did it without benefit of a team drafting and running interference for him. Frankly, it was, in every sense of the word, an Olympian effort; worthy of the Games.
Then there is the story of the blind archer who can distinguish color variations and aims without benefit of glasses. Im Dong-hyun, a South Korean, who has only 10% vision in his left eye and 20% in his right eye, making him legally blind, set an Olympic record with a score of 699 points with 72 arrows at a target 76 yards away. Another Olympian effort.
In the ancient times, the Olympics were primarily a running event, the origin of the Marathon, and there are historical records that the competitors even ran naked. The prize was a “crown”, made of eucalyptus leaves and given to the winner. This is noteworthy because the apostle Paul makes references to “crowns” and “running the race” when he talks about his faith and his desire to influence people for Christ back in the first century.
Undoubtedly, due to the popularity of the ancient Games, Paul’s comments would have resonated with the people of the day. He wanted to make sure that they identified with the Olympian effort that was required to win the day; and he wanted to make sure that people were just as on fire for the Lord – although I think it is sad to think that this was probably not the case – much the same as today…
The verse for tonight comes from 1 Cor. 9:24-27, “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. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
What Paul is telling us is that we are to make sure that we do everything we can to advance the kingdom of God, because the prize is not a crown that is made of eucalyptus leaves, but it is a crown that will last for all eternity. And Paul wants to make sure that even he himself trains so that he will still qualify for the eternal “crown.” Another great thing about this is that there isn’t only one winner – anyone who commits to their faith in Christ is eligible to win a crown. God has enough crowns to go around.
My encouragement this evening is to let you know that God has a crown for you – just do your best to run a good race. And it doesn’t make any difference if you beat anyone else or not – your’re running for, and to, God. My prayer is that you will run the race diligently and that you may even be responsible for others getting in the race as well. After all, God desires for us to put forth an Olympian effort, and we wouldn’t want to disappoint Him. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…