As the Olympics begin in Sochi, Russia, we have an unusual opportunity to join with generations of humanity that have gathered together to celebrate physical achievement and the elusive hope for peace and unity across our planet. Regularly embroiled in controversy and frequent scandal, nonetheless the Olympics can still give us a hint of what could be on a global scale, and show us what commitment and dedication can produce as athletes go faster, higher and farther than ever before.
If you’ve ever trained for a race or competed in an athletic event, you know what it means to steel your mind and force your objecting body to obey you. You will have fought the desire to give up, to rest and to admit defeat before the race is done. But despite the body’s complaints, it is the finish line and the encouraging cheers of onlookers that keep one foot going after the other, pushed on by the knowledge of what awaits.
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. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
1 Cor 9: 24-27
There are times when our lives are likewise filled with a confusing mix of controversy and hope. When the backdrop of ministry is complicated by opposition and hardship, it can be tempting to surrender. The finish line can seem so far away and the fight is often hard. But as we watch our Olympians compete, there is one message that keeps coming through – it is worth it. We are not running, skating or skiing aimlessly. We are not boxing the air. We are running towards a loving Father who plots our course, coaches our steps and cheers us on every step of the way.