|What Christians Can Learn from the Summer Olympics
by Ramona Vincent
This summer, our family – along with 76 percent of the world’s population – will be gathering in front of the television to watch elite athletes from around the world compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals in the sports that God has gifted them in.
What is it that makes the Summer Olympics so compelling that even individuals who do not normally watch sports take the time out of their busy schedules to tune into their favorite events and cheer for athletes whom they don’t even know?
Olympians inspire us to be our best – to strive for greatness – to believe that when we devote ourselves to pursuing our dreams, all things are possible.
Some of these Olympians are so young! We often wonder how can 13, 14 and 15-year olds be so strong and talented!
As each competition and human interest story unfolds, we can learn some valuable lessons from the Olympians about what it takes to lead a victorious Christian life.
We Are Called To Persevere
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. – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
Have you ever signed up to do something fun, only to throw in the towel the moment that things got tough? Olympian athletes remind us that in order to accomplish anything of worth in life, we must set a goal, keep our eye on the prize, and persevere.
We need to live our Christian lives like this. As Hebrews 12:1-3 says:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Athletes focus on their diets, their physical training, and their interactions with their coach and their teammates to prepare them for competition. Christians focus on the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, worship and fellowship so that we are prepared for our daily encounters in life.
We Are Called To Be Ambassadors For Christ
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:20
Olympian athletes serve as ambassadors for their country. The eyes of the world are upon them at all times. They know that the things that they say or do bring glory or shame to their native lands.
Likewise, Christians are ambassadors for Christ. We represent the Kingdom of God. Jesus calls us the light of the world. He tells us to let our light shine before men, so that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven. (2 Corinthians 5:20, Matthew 5:14, Matthew 5:16)
We Are Called To Glorify God
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. – Colossians 3:17
Everything that we do, each and every day of our lives, should be done for God’s glory and honor. This especially holds true when we are in the spotlight, because we are given a special opportunity to magnify and glorify God’s name for the entire world to see.
Throughout the years, there have been many Olympian athletes who have used their time in the spotlight to share the love of Christ with others, including beloved gymnast Gabby Douglas, track and field sprinter Allyson Felix, and swimming gold medalist and world record holder Missy Franklin.
We Are Called To Impact The World For God
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. – 1 Timothy 4:12
One of the most moving moments at any sporting event – particularly a world class event like the Summer Olympics – is when a Christian athlete wins a medal and uses his or her fame and glory to testify of the goodness of God.
Young Christian athletes in the media serve as particularly powerful role models for children because they show them that they, too, can be a witness for God in their schools and communities, regardless of their age.
Swimming With Faith by Natalie Davis Miller tells the inspiring story of 21-year old Missy Franklin – a four-time Olympic gold medalist who holds several world and American swimming records and has earned numerous awards, medals and titles in her sport.
Despite her achievements, Missy does her best to live a normal life and to maintain a vibrant, vital relationship with God.
“God is always there for me. I talk with Him before, during and after practice and competitions. I pray to Him for guidance. I thank Him for this talent He has given me, and promise to be a positive role model for young athletes in all sports.”
Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas, best known as the first African American to win the individual all-around event at the London 2012 Olympics, is currently setting her sights on a comeback to compete in the 2016 Olympics. Douglas is very outspoken about her love for Christ and wrote the books Raising the Bar (for ages 8 and up) and Grace, Gold & Glory (for grades 6-9) after winning her medals.
“I love sharing my story and I love sharing about my faith,” she said. “God has given me this amazing God-given talent, so I’m going to go out and glorify His name.”
Both Missy and Gabby embody determination, perseverance and faithfulness – the types of qualities that every parent wants to impart to their children.
As your family counts down the days to the Summer Olympics, why not introduce your children to these star athletes by reading and discussing their faith stories with your family?