We admire athletes of all types of sports simply because of their steadfast dedication to training and competing. Always striving for the goal of winning. It’s quite admirable when you really think about it. The sacrifices they make in order to stay focused on their goals are really incredible, and they all start at a young age.
Interestingly enough, we (the public) don’t see the sacrifices these athletes make. We may hear about them later on, but we don’t witness them first hand. Why? Because the glamour of the social life is what gets our attention. We see the athlete win the race or tournament and then we see them dressed up for the after party. Or we may see them in the advertisements of a magazine or commercial depicting them relaxing by the beach enjoying friends and refreshments.
That’s all marketing and not real life, and yet those images are the ones we remember and eventually believe, even when deep down, we really know the truth. We don’t see the strict diets these athletes are on to make sure their bodies are completely fueled. We don’t see the strenuous daily workouts or the mandatory rest they force themselves to take.
Athletes are very deliberate with their time and it is always centered around accomplishing their goal(s). There are no easy paths to success in sports. We also don’t see the countless millions of aspiring athletes who give up their quest because they are disillusioned at their own abilities or tired of always sacrificing. My son is one of them. He had a passion, still has it even, for tennis but has no belief in what he can accomplish with it. Not anymore anyway. Why? Because he didn’t see the results he was looking for while he was working so hard when he wanted to see them. It’s hard to keep working when you don’t see how that work is paying off.
Life is like that of an athlete. Every one of us are aspiring to the success of happiness and satisfaction and we each claim we are working toward that goal. But are we really? How many of us have really defined the end goal for our lives? If we have defined it, how are we working towards it? Are we being deliberate in our discipline to continue even when we don’t see the reward we claim we desire right away? Is the end goal something we can touch while we are still alive or is it something more? Something that we won’t see until after we’ve moved on from this life here on earth? That is what we have to decide and that is where our faith comes in. We have the potential to live a very soul-satisfying life right now but we have to look beyond the marketing of comfort and carefree living to recognize where true happiness lies.
If we believe that this life on earth is not the only life there is, then we must be preparing for life beyond what we see right now. Paul is an inspiration for us to work towards this unseen goal as he wrote about his vision and his aspirations.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, be we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. This I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
He reiterates it with: Philippians 3:14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
And finally: 2 Timothy 4:78 I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
His entire life was lived in zealous pursuit of God’s will. God recognized it and showed him the truth knowing how determined Paul was to live for pleasing Him. Saul was deceived but Paul was an example of a satisfied life lived in righteous belief, living in God’s word only despite his physical circumstances. He saw the everlasting crown in his faith and fastidiously worked towards it.
As we watch the Olympic athletes compete for those perishable gold medals and hear all of their inspirational stories of determination and grit, let us put our faith to work to finish the race for that imperishable crown of righteousness using our determined faith and steadfastness to keep us steady in our quest.