The Christian life has often been compared to a race. The apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Galatians 2:2, Philippians 2:16, 2 Timothy 4:7) and the author of Hebrews knew their readers would understand the comparison. Although the Olympic games were pagan in origin, people living in Biblical days could see a relationship between the dedication required to compete in games, perhaps even the ancient Olympic games, and the Christian life.
Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV).
A CLOUD OF WITNESSES
- When Joannie Rochette of Canada skated her short program just two days after her mother died of a heart attack, it was before a crowd of over 11,000 observers. They were awed that night as she scored a personal best and again two days later when she won the bronze medal. The commentators, some former Olympic champions themselves, were stunned by her grace and ability to carry on through her grief.
- The writer of Hebrews mentions a great cloud of witnesses after naming some of the strongest spiritual giants of the ages. Those in that roll call were faithful despite many hardships. They were commended by God because they did not give up. No matter how hard the race is for the believer, spectators in the family of God are cheering him on.
LAY ASIDE EVERY WEIGHT
- Apolo Ohno, who now has eight Olympic medals, said, “Being an Olympic athlete for me is 100% pure sacrifice.” Lindsey Vonn, after winning her gold medal in the 2010 winter Olympics, said, “I’ve given up everything for this. It means everything to me.” Shaun White, winner of the gold in the men’s halfpipe, said, “I didn’t come out here to hold back anything.”
- Training is a necessary prelude to the race. Complete dedication is part of that training. Just like the Olympic athletes, the Christian life is not for the lazy. There is sacrifice involved. It is hard work, but more than worth every effort to bring glory to God.
THE SIN WHICH SO EASILY ENSNARES US
- Sven Kramer of the Netherlands experienced on the most disappointing moments in Olympic history. After having broken a speed record and supposedly securing the gold medal for his speedskating event, he was disqualified. The record was struck and the gold medal was lost because his coach, Gerard Kemkers, convinced him to change lanes during the race. Sven’s initial anger was understandable. However, the next day, he realized that it would not benefit him, his team, his coach or his country if he hung on to resentment. He let it go.
- Satan is well aware of what can ensnare the life of any Christian. He will use that to his advantage. He is in the business of robbing the fruit, or the prize, from a believer’s life. The Bible tells us that we should be aware of his schemes and to resist him. The way to do that is to draw closer to Christ, who knew no sin.
JOY SET BEFORE HIM
- The huge grins on the faces of the medal winners are still plastered across the internet and newspapers. For them, all the preparation and pain was worth the prize.
- Jesus, for the joy set before Him, endured His race, which was the journey to the cross. People who believe in Him are His joy. As His followers, we will also experience true and lasting joy as we run our race for His glory.
SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE THRONE OF GOD
- In the modern Olympics, prizes are gold, silver and bronze medals. Those were not the prizes, however, in the ancient Olympic games. In “The Persian Wars,” Tritantaechmes, upon learning that the prize for the ancient Olympic games was not money but an olive wreath, is said to have exclaimed, “Good heavens, Mardonius, what manner of men are these against whom you have brought us to fight – men who contend with one another, not for money, but for honor.”
- Jesus wore a crown of thorns so those who trust in Him could inherit a crown of glory. Paul said that his crown was his faithful brothers in Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:19. Jesus says that faithfulness is rewarded with the crown of life (Revelations 2:10). As Christians, our hope of glory is Jesus Himself (Colossians 1:27).
LOOKING UNTO JESUS, THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF OUR FAITH
- Approximately 12,000 people were involved in the torch relay before the 2010 winter Olympics. During the closing ceremony on the last day of the games, the flame was extinguished.
- The light that a Christian carries is never extinguished as Christians reflect the light of the one who is Light Himself. As we walk in His light here (1 John 1:7), we can look forward to being in the city where the glory of God gives light forever (Revelation 21:23).
The Christian life is not a sprint. It is a race of endurance. The rewards are heavenly and eternal.
© Stephanie B. Blake