For two weeks, we were captivated by the London 2012 Summer Olympics. We set the DVR on our television sets, downloaded the app onto our smartphones, and we even followed the action online. We cheered when athletes won medals, but we just lost our minds when our country brought home the gold. We celebrated when records were broken and history was made, as if we were right there in London. Similarly, when our favorites lost or were injured we sympathized with their hurt. We cringed when the look of pain shot across their faces. We sat in respectful silence when we saw them cry. The Olympic Athletes are the best in the world at what they do. They trained and sacrificed for that moment since they were children. Almost every parent of an athlete who was interviewed mentioned what a financial strain their athletes’ pursuit was for the family. Yet, they did what was needed to support their child’s gifts and dreams.
The competitors talked about the burden of the emotional and mental workouts. They sacrificed things we take for granted. They all put their whole being into their craft. And we, the people, respect that. We are encouraged by their tenacity. We are warmed by their humility. We are impressed by their courage. We are inspired by their success. Perhaps that is why we took it so hard when we witnessed a dream deferred due to injury. Perhaps this is why it pulled at our heart strings when our favorite Olympian had to admit that he/she simply was not good enough at the moment when they needed to be the best. Maybe we felt so connected to them because we can’t help but honor their earnest hard work and unwavering dedication.
Consider this, what if we put Olympian size effort into our walk in the Christian faith? How can I possibly compare Christianity to the Olympics, you ask? Well, I don’t think it’s that farfetched at all. It is not uncommon for life to hand us, regular ole, every day, non-Olympian people a defeat or two. We have our share of heartbreaks just like the competitors that captured our affection. We have all been there. It’s tough to get back to your regular routine after the Lord calls your mother home. The stress of being unemployed can suck all of the wind of hope out of you. The pain of seeing your precious baby grow up to become a devoted criminal can make you feel like a failure. Life can really dish it out and we can’t compete on our own. Thankfully, we don’t have too. He has given us everything we need to get past the defeats and live a life of joy regardless of what is going on in our world.
He allowed His Son to make the sacrifice that closed the gap between us and Him. He made the Holy Spirit to reside within us to direct our paths. And while He is seated on His throne, He promised to never leave or forsake us. He vowed to give us everything we need not only to survive, but to live life to the fullest. He even told us it is wise to plan, but don’t give into anxiety about whats come. “I tell you not to worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to Him than any birds!…Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” Luke 12:22-28 NLT.
The Olympians, that our cultures adore, possess an immense amount of faith in what they are capable of accomplishing. They have to. You don’t become elite being full of doubt. And you don’t become the greatest by comparing yourself to something less than the best. Before the Olympics began, Oprah interviewed several previous gold medal, record setting Olympians. One of those legends was Carl Lewis. During the conversation Carl Lewis made the statement that Olympic athletes didn’t train to compete against other athletes. He said they trained to compete against perfection. It’s no coincidence that as Christians we’re being made perfect. Don’t let that phrase overwhelm you. Being made perfect in Christ just means that He is in the process of making us complete and whole in Him. The caveat is that we have to be willing to be molded to be more like Christ. How many times in our personal Christian journey have we fallen short, but then took the stance, “Well at least I’m not as bad as so and so.” While many hard times are beyond our control, many of our choices could simply be better.
If we want the best the Lord has to offer, we have to be willing to give our best to Him. No, Salvation is not earned. Jesus covered that debt. There is nothing we can do to earn God’s love because He loved us first (1 John 4:19). But just as we respect, enjoy, applaud, and honor those world class Olympians, who give their all to be perfect, shouldn’t we desire to give our all to the Master? “And the Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ I answered, ‘A plumb line’. And the Lord replied, ‘I will test my people with this plumb line. I will no longer ignore their sins’ “ Amos 7:8 NIV. A plumb line is like a modern day level. A level is used when building something to make sure it is straight up and down. A plumb line was used to make sure the object that was being built was upright. As were move along our Christian journey, God is building us (making us perfect) and desires that that we are built upright. Therefore, His plumb line is not other flawed humans. Using other people to determine our level of perfection will leave us crooked and unstable. We may have the illusion that the walls of our lives are built properly and sturdily. But when the storms come, those walls will be crushed, and so will our spirits. On the other hand, if we use Christ as our plumb line, the walls of our lives don’t just look good, they will actually be the best. Lives built on godliness are solid to the core. Lives build on the Word won’t collapse when life hits you from behind.
So what’s the formula? How do we become gold medal Christians? Do we need to cut back on fats and sugars and add more lean protein and whole grains to our diets? Do we need to take our workout routines to another level? Well, I’m sure that couldn’t hurt. But the course to giving God your best was laid out for us centuries ago in Deuteronomy 6:5, “You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Truly love Him, then live out that love for Him in all of your decisions, in how you spend your time, how you spend your money, how you treat others, how you treat yourself, live it out in every single thing aspect of your life. And when you are at your weakest, He will be at His best. But you have to love Him more than anything else. You have to give your heart to Him. Then, while life comes at you full force, you would have already been in training. You will be prepared for the competition, plus Grace and Mercy will be on your team. The heavenly hosts will be cheering you on. And just like the Olympians, your proud Father will beam with pride as you cross the finish line covered in the radiance of victory.