Olympic fever is raging in our household, particularly when it comes to swimming. Life doesn't exactly stop for the games, but it does get interrupted just a bit. Today was spent getting ready for the annual Moore family reunion that we hosted at our home. Weed whacking, moving a few things around, getting tables and chairs set up - all the usual preparations for having guests kept us busy, with the occasional time out to watch another race.
Watching these kids (I can say that of even the oldest of them) perform is simply amazing. The level of competition is incredible, and the dedication that it takes to achieve these kinds of performances is beyond imagination for most of us. All for a five inch disc, the exhilaration of seeing the numbers on the board and standing on a podium for a few minutes.
St. Paul must have had quite an interest in sports. He speaks of boxing, running a race, winning a prize, all the while encouraging us to look beyond the things that command our attention and admiration. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, he uses the sports of the day to reveal an important life lesson:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
The words that catch my attention are in the middle of this quote: "They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable." The prize back then was an olive branch wreath which would of course, wither and fade rather quickly. But even a gold medal, though it won't fade, is only a piece of metal that will sit on a shelf or hang in a showcase on a wall. All that dedication and effort is directed towards what for some is a matter of mere seconds. In our home there are no medals on the wall, no trophies in a case, but there is the laughter of little children, conversations of substance, and plenty of love and respect as our family sits around the tables set up in the spruce grove and the kids play on the trampoline or walk the creek. Medals will eventually perish. It probably won't happen tomorrow, but it will happen. But people are forever, and the investment of time, the dedication to excellence in relationships, and the pursuit of God are eternal. I have never been much of an athlete, but I know that my life focus has been right. My only question is whether I have as much devotion to Christ as these athletes have to their sport. Following Jesus takes the same kind of intensity and focus if we are to win the prize. We aren't competing against other believers, but simply offering our best to God.
The Good News is that we live by grace, not by performance. We strive to be our best because our God deserves our best, yet knowing that it could never be enough, and grateful that God stepped in with the gift of forgiveness through the sacrifice of his Son.