Looking for a Greater Prize

The XXXl Olympic Games in Rio is now in its last week and I am sure many of you like me have spent a few hours in front of the TV willing our athletes on to gold. Personally I have to say I have been a little bit disappointed in how we have done in the rugby 7s and the rowing – but that's the Olympics. You can never be certain who is going to win. It is interesting to note that the Olympic Games is one of the few sports the Bible actually mentions. In 1 Corinthians 9:25 the apostle Paul writes:

"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."

When Paul wrote these words to the Corinthian Christians, he assumed everyone there knew about the games. The Olympic Games had taken place in Greece every four years without interruption from 776 BC until they were suppressed by the Emperor Theodosius in AD 393. That's 1,169 years. Everyone knew about the games and talked about the games. So Paul didn't have to explain the games. Everybody was aware of the games then just as everybody is aware of the games now, so it was a perfect topic to help him engage with his audience.

So why does Paul mention the Olympic games? Unfortunately not to alleviate our guilt about how much time we have spent in front of the telly, but rather as a platform or springboard to talk about a greater honour, a greater glory, a greater prize to win or pursue than an Olympic Gold medal. Paul is saying we all know what an athlete has to give up to compete in the Olympics. No matter how talented or driven an athlete is, they must deny themselves and train for hours a day to perfect their skills and maintain their phenomenal level of physical fitness. And they do all this in the hope of winning a gold medal and the glory of human praise – in Paul's day they didn't get a gold medal, but a laurel wreath. So building on this Paul says if these athletes are prepared to do all this for an earthly reward that will overtime fade and perish, how much more should we be prepared to discipline ourselves spiritually to win a crown that will never fade or perish and will give us incredible joy. The answer of course is we should be prepared to give our all. But what does that mean in every day life?

It means first we have to truly appreciate the prize that Christ offers.That as the parable of the Pearl of Great Price illustrates it is worth everything we have – even our life. It means believing in faith that our joy and contentment lies in Christ and what is to come rather than in worldly things. It means having come to this realization we commit ourselves like an athlete commits to a training regimen to a regimen of prayer, worship, reading God's Word and examining our lives for any sin that impedes our relationship with God and prevents us being transformed into his likeness. It means when we feel ourselves fading and giving in to temptation and the allure of the world we think about how unbelievably precious it will be to hear Christ say, "well done good and faithful servant" and to receive our Crown of righteousness and so we keeping ongoing.

So as the Olympics Games come to a close let us reflect on how spiritually fit we are and whether we are in line to get the prize that really counts.

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. Hebrew 12:1-3


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