Christianity: Winning the Olympic Crown of Heaven
Posted on Thursday, February 23, 2006 @ 00:00:00 EST
Topic: The Christian Faith
The Christian FaithAlong with millions around the world, I've been watching the televised winter olympic games at Turin (or Turino) with great interest. I'm so impressed with what these young men and women are able to do in their individual sports.

As I write, 21-year-old Sasha Cohen of the USA is in the running for a gold medal as a figure skater, something that has eluded her several times before. She's ahead of two-time world champion Irina Slutskaya of Russia by only .03 points. I especially appreciated Sasha's words quoted in the Associate Press release:

"It's not always about being the most talented, it's about sticking it out. This sport rewards the tough people," Cohen said. "I've been working really hard at staying strong and being positive. That and enjoying every moment of the process."

All this reminds me of some lessons about exercising and training from the Bible I'd like to share with you.


Sasha Cohen

The Apostle Paul wrote: "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." (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

From this I gather that this Jewish teacher with his classical education and training in Greek appreciated and understood what it means to be an olympic-level athlete. He respected the mental and physical toughness required and then applied this to our struggles with our very human sinful natures. This means self-denial and daily discipline.

Paul, in the fourth chapter of his first letter to Timothy, his younger under-study, writing as might an olympic coach, warns that Christians will encounter deceiving spirits and hypocritical liars who will promote things taught by demons. For instance, they will teach that to be a Christian you must be an ascetic, neither marrying nor eating certain foods. There were and still are many such godless myths and old wives' tales. This kind of Gnosticism is still around. To avoid such errors one must be disciplined in the truths of the Christian faith.

The Apostle draws upon his love for athletes as he points out that "physical training is of some value" (v.8). I like that, because the older I get the less inclined I am toward physical training involving eating the right foods and exercising. Hey, it's a whole lot easier to sit on my rear eating pizza and cookies than to watch my diet and at least go for a daily walk. However, to stay anywhere close to being healthy, I'm finding that this aging body absolutely needs this kind of training. Cholesterol and blood pressure keep creeping up. What about you?

Paul does not teach us to despise food, sex, marriage and our human bodies. These all are God's good creations and are to be received with thanksgiving. He wants us to respect our bodies and prayerfully devote ourselves to God's will and plan for our lives by paying close attention to His Word. That's what I take he means when he emphasizes godliness or piety. The Greek word is eusebeia. It refers to putting "our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe" (v.10). The pious or godly person will devote himself to this God and will use his body, mind and will to serve God at all stages of life.

Only a minute fraction of us will ever make it to the Olympic Games, let alone win a gold medal. That is reserved for the rarest of the rare. However, we're all in the race for the crown of heaven and do we ever have a great coach. The writer to the Hebrews gives us a whole chapter about training and discipline for the race. Strip down, he writes in chapter 12 and get rid of the sin that entangles. Then run with perseverance the race marked out for you and as you do:

Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Concentrate on him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Anyone who does that will win the gold. He/she will be able to say with the Apostle:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store 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 longed for his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

 (10) No matter the storm, when you are with God, there's always a rainbow waiting.


This article comes from Alvin H. Franzmeier