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Column: Olympics have shown to be a picture of spiritual life

Every four years I say the same thing: I’m not going to watch the Olympics this time. The best stuff is on so late, commercial breaks every two minutes frustrate me, and it’s hard to figure out when events I really want to see are going to be on. And then… I get sucked in every time. Every time!

The stories of the athletes are so compelling, the competition at its highest and best is so exciting, and I get caught up in it all over again. I marvel at the work that these athletes put in to become the best in their nation at what they do, and I try to imagine the stress they feel on the Olympic stage with one opportunity; one chance at being the best in the world. The pressure is part of the process of determining who is an Olympic champion, because all that work, all that effort, all the sacrifices over the years to get to that point, and it all can come down to just a few seconds of performance. One mistake – a stumble, a bobble, a toe on the line – and suddenly none of that matters any more. In front of millions of people watching, a lifetime spent working on skills and abilities that few will ever possess nets nothing.

The Apostle Paul used the Olympic games (the ancient ones that our modern Olympics are based upon), as a picture of our spiritual life. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 he writes: 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. The prize for winning the Olympics was a crown of olive leaves that the winner would wear. However, they would fade and fall apart over time. Paul here reminds us that when we run after Jesus, all of us receive the prize of new life, a fresh start, and God’s love. And unlike the laurel wreath crowns of the games, this gift from God never fades and never goes away.

The encouragement of Paul is to run after Jesus like we’re running in the Olympic games: train and invest ourselves in the relationship with Christ. Make the effort to hear from Him and do what He tells us so that we will receive the crown that will last forever. Not some exclusive crown that only one person can win, but a crown that every one of us can win, because it’s not achieved for our perfect performance. It’s a crown of grace, given because God loves each of us and wants us to know Him. God has one He wants to give you today. Chase after Him, and it’s yours forever.

Pastor Bill McCready of LifePoint Church is a member of the Carson Valley Ministers’ Association.