Let’s ponder this: 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 someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 1 Corinthians 9:24-26
My wife, Gwen, was training to be an Olympic swimmer at one time (she was even in the pool with Mark Spitz, at one point). We were watching one of the 2012 swimmers talking about the training regimen he had gone through to get to the finals. It was something she knew well. She remarked, “It just dawned on me again why I gave that all up when I was a teenager.” She became a Christian and it seemed ridiculous.
I have offended some people before by implying that what they are doing is ridiculous, so I apologize in advance for not understanding your situation. One of the gymnasts was saying just last night how the Bible helps her calm down so she can do her floor exercise. Plenty of people think that God is quite devoted to them becoming a world-famous swimmer, or something like that. I have never been sure of that.
I think we should be devoted to Jesus. And, like Paul, I think we should be in training to receive our everlasting crown. Like Paul, I admire people who go into strict training. Like Gwen and Paul, I am amazed that they would do it to get the reward they get. But I admire the training and I apply the concept to receiving that “well done” from the Lord as I cross the finish line, having run the race of my life hard.
The most specific way I apply my training is to church planting. I think you probably can name what event of the “Christian Olympics” in which you are participating, too. If you are running with me, there are some hard things to overcome.
The main thing that makes church planting training and the racing hard is the commitment it takes to do something that does not give us an immediate prize. There will be no endorsements for serving the cause of Christ, I think. I suppose that is why I was so moved when the Welsh kids sang “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah” in the opening ceremonies. I am so used to Jesus being scrupulously extracted from any public media that I was shocked by the affirmation.
Lesser threats to our training regimen make it very demanding, as well.
For instance, we are always tempted to make church planting another consumer choice. Maybe Phelps lost out to Lochte because he became a consumer choice. We’re tempted to make our kingdom-extending a personal matter that makes no more difference than if one likes Irish Spring or Dial. It is hard to get excited about the intricacies of how your coffee tastes for too long.
What’s more we are all a little ADHD, it seems. There is quite a bit of science around now about how all those video games and other media absorption has even changed the way our brains work, and it is not for the better. We have a hard time paying attention if a conversation is too long; we have much more trouble if we are supposed to maintain a lifelong commitment to the cause of Jesus.
Plus, we are so overwhelmed by our rapacious power elite in the empire that we tend to be reactors instead of actors. I don’t mean nuclear reactors ready to blow (although we may feel oppressed enough at times), I mean we don’t feel like we have the power to do anything. We just react to what is thrown at us (like Jim Crow laws in PA) instead of acting to build a church that can undermine the system the same way it did the Roman Empire.
The good thing about the Olympics is seeing how many people can compete at such a high level of proficiency. We are an impressive creation! They inspire me in so many ways to get into shape. Not only could I lose a few pounds and do a few sit ups, I could pray again, and I could act on all those inspirations that the Lord has planted in me for planting the church. I love how almost nothing I do in the name of Jesus is aimless. And the finish line is so great!