In 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 Paul wrote, “Do you remember how, on a racing-track, every competitor runs, but only one wins the prize? Well, you ought to run with your minds fixed on winning the prize! Every competitor in athletic events goes into serious training. Athletes will take tremendous pains—for a fading crown of leaves. But our contest is for an eternal crown that will never fade” (J.B. Phillips Translation). Paul was writing about the original Greek Olympics; these days, in the modern Olympics, athletes are rewarded with medals that will last longer than the crown of leaves that the competitors of Paul’s day received and there are also highly valued rewards for second and third place too. But the principle of what Paul was saying apply as much to the modern Olympic athletes, as it did to those in ancient Greece.
Success doesn’t just happen.
As I watched the Olympics in Rio during the summer of 2016, I noticed that it was mentioned time and time again about the amount of training it takes for athletes to achieve the success that we enjoy seeing. We see these athletes competing in cycling, swimming, athletics, gymnastics, beach volley ball or whatever it is, but we do not see the immense amount of training that goes on behind the scenes. The success that we see being achieved at the Olympics is only the tip of the iceberg. Success doesn’t just happen, you have to put the effort in. During the Rio Olympics I heard of winning Olympic athletes who were inspired by watching previous Olympics. But they didn’t get to Rio, just because the wanted to – it took serious training. Likewise, living a victorious Christian life won’t just happen overnight either.
An athlete needs to train on a daily basis.
If you want to lead a successful life as a Christian, you have got to put the effort in, you have got to do the training. An athlete who only trains for a couple of hours, once a week, is not going to get very far in their chosen sport. Neither is a Christian who attends church once a week, but otherwise has little or no input from God’s Word the rest of the week, going to be very effective – it just doesn’t work like that! Just as an athlete needs to train on a daily basis, a Christian needs to pray and read the Bible daily too. The more effort an athlete puts in, the greater are the rewards and the same is true for us as Christians. Half-hearted training will not get an athlete to the Olympics and half-hearted Christianity is not going to get you very far either.
Reading the Bible with no teacher is better than having no Bible.
The comparison between Olympic athletes and Christians can be taken further. An athlete doesn’t just need to train, they also need a trainer. It’s important for them to have a good, knowledgeable coach. For us as Christians, whilst reading the Bible is important, it is also important to listen to good Bible teachers. Some may argue that the Bible alone is enough. It is certainly true that reading the Bible with no teacher is better than having no Bible, just as training without a coach, is better than not training at all. The best scenario, however, is for an athlete to train with a good coach and for a Christian to listen regularly to good Biblical teaching (or to read good Biblical teaching). Seek out people who preach the uncompromised Word of God.
You can live in divine health.
There are rewards available to the Christian that are of far more value than Olympic medals (even the though the training involved for athletes that make it to the Olympics is certainly worth the effort). Our potential rewards are immense and I am not just talking about in the sweet by-and-by, when we get to Heaven. I am talking about “now in this time” (Mark 10:30). You can live in divine health, you can have divine prosperity and be a blessing to others, for example – but you have to put the effort in. So take inspiration from the Olympic athletes and make sure that you too have a good training regime in place.
If you have any further questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment.
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