Wednesday, September 7, 2016

I love the Olympics

Submitted by Jim Garner
"Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you. Mark 11:24
I love the Olympics! The winter Olympics are good (but I can’t relate to much of the activity growing up in the south) but the summer “Games” are awesome! Everything about it (minus the Zika virus, polluted waters, and doping scandals) brings the world together for two weeks of exciting athletic action performed by some of the world’s greatest athletes on land, water, and through the air. But the spirit of the Olympics is best seen in its diversity with varying cultures, races, and languages represented in nations from all over the world.  As great as the athleticism can be sometimes it can be overshadowed by the demonstration of cooperation and sportsmanship. These past games in Rio provided a couple of different stories from the track that caught my attention and reminded me of how inspiring sports can be when done right, but also able to refresh our hearts and minds of spiritual takeaways for everyday life.
For example, Mo Farah, a competitor from Great Britain, the best long distance runner over the past few Olympics, was running alongside his training partner and friend, American Galen Rupp, in the 10,000 meters. About halfway through the race their feet got tangled and Farah, the heavy favorite, went down. At this point, Rupp slowed down to insure his friend was okay before picking back up to speed and finishing the race. You knew all was okay when Farah got up quickly off the track, gave him a “thumb up” gesture and then proceeded to not only finish the race but come back and win. It was a great showing of heart and talent by the runners, but an even better example of friendship and sportsmanship that greatly outshined the competition itself.
But an even greater example that best demonstrated the Olympic spirit was witnessed in the women’s 5,000 meters. Abbey D’Agostino, an American runner was involved in a chain-reaction wreck on the track during the race with New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin. D’Agostino went to Hamblin, helped her up and urged her to keep running. They both pressed on and finished the race but D’Agostino suffered the most in the collision and had to be carted off only to discover a torn ACL and strained MCL. This ended her Olympic dreams for the Rio Games but set an example for everyone watching on national television in regards to competition, sportsmanship, and her Christian witness.
D’Agostino was quoted following the race: “Although my actions were instinctual at that moment, the only way I can and have rationalized it is that God prepared my heart to respond that way.” She went on to add: “This whole time here, he’s made clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance – and as soon as Nikki got up I knew that was it.”
What a great story and another important reminder when it comes to life lessons. It doesn’t matter how young we are and how hard we may have trained to be in the best shape in our life, we are not always guaranteed a “happy ending”.  I’m sure many Olympians could testify to this.
As human beings we are not indestructible. So often, working with teens, we see this mindset and belief that they think they can do anything and nothing will happen to them.
However, we know that life is full of trials whether they come from our poor choices, the impact of another’s decision that affects us, or just life in general. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when”. We know that difficulties will come. It’s what we do next that demonstrates our faith and hope. Will we lay there or will we get up? Will we become fearful or rise up in faith? Will we get frustrated at our circumstances or even blame others, or will we rise up in faith with a hope that only the Lord can give?

The book of Isaiah reinforces this in chapter 40, verses 28-31:
Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weakand strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”
What a clear picture of where true strength is and where it is not. The writer questions people to where they have heard or understood this obvious spiritual truth – THE LORD IS GOD! Talk about confidence of where you can put your trust? He is the creator, He never tires, He understands way more than we ever could, He is power and strength.
In contrast to Him there is us, humanity. We are weak, don’t comprehend everything, powerless, and eventually collapse. I think I see a pattern on where I should put my trust. GOD, not me (or others)!
In the Oscar winning movie from the early 1980’s, “Chariots of Fire”, (based on a true story surrounding the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris) one of the main characters, Eric Liddell, a Christian and later missionary to China, demonstrates his faith and strength that He knows comes from the Lord. He not only quotes this verse but is seen getting up in a race after being knocked down coming back to win from behind. He knew his strength for “running the race” – both on and off the track – comes from the Lord.
At some point in life we will all get knocked down just as these Olympic runners did. We will face struggles physically, but more often than not these difficulties come our way in the forms of trials in relationships, jobs, school, and families. It’s life. We will fall down but will we bounce back up?

Scripture to Claim:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:23

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