This year the world’s premier sporting event - the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics – is coming to
London and the . UK is the first city to stage the Olympics three times. There will be 26 different sports, 17,000 athletes competing representing 205 countries. 63,000 will be involved in staging the games. 9 million tickets are expected to be sold with 500,000 people spectating. 20,000 journalists will cover the games so that millions more can avidly follow every huff, puff, spill and saga of the action. 90% of the London is expected to watch the Games on television. UK
The image of an athlete is used three times in the New Testament to teach important truths about the Christian life. A New Year in which we can enjoy the Olympics experience is a good time for reminding ourselves of those truths and making them part of our lives as we begin 2012.
In 1 Corinthians 9. 24-27,
wrote: “You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You're after one that's gold eternally. St Paul
All good athletes train hard, Paul writes, and so should we. What does training involve for Christians? Prayer, bible study and Christian fellowship are all key parts of understanding our faith and growing as Christians. Doing those things can help to underpin effective Christian living. But real Christian living is about significant lifestyle change; eradicating our natural selfishnessness and living more generously – loving God will everything we have and loving our neighbour as ourselves. Doing that takes practice. We have to consciously decide to speak and act differently from how we would naturally. It is only with practice that unselfishness becomes natural to us. That is the kind of training which Paul has in mind for as we seek to live for Christ and like Christ in 2012.
We train hard in order that we can run to win. Athletes run to win an individual gold medal but we run to win eternal life; not as an individual prize but eternal life as Jesus spoke it – the coming in full of God’s kingdom of love, mercy, justice and peace. That is a prize worth winning and that is what our giving, our loving and our living should be fully focussed towards.
That’s what we are encouraged to do by Philippians 3. 12 – 15. The writer of this letter says:
“I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward — to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.
So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision — you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it.”
No distractions, no veering off track; just an absolute focus on the goal which the kingdom of God come on earth as in heaven and the life of Jesus as the pattern and example of what that kingdom looks like when it fully comes.
So we fix our eyes on Jesus, as the text for 2012 at St John's Seven Kings, Hebrews 12. 1-2, tells us, because he is our example and our goal. He has shown us how to run the race – we follow in his footsteps – and he is our goal because his life shows what the kingdom of God will look like when it comes in full.
This text for 2012 gives us one other athletics image to savour and that is of a full stadium cheering us on as we run our race:
"We are surrounded by a great crowd of witnesses – all those who have borne witness to the truth of Christ before us. All the saints, all the heroes of the Bible, all those who encouraged us in our faith but who are no longer with us; each one is there in the stadium stands yelling and cheering to encourage us to preserve, continue and complete the race that we are running.
Do you see what this means — all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running — and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed — that exhilarating finish in and with God — he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honour, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he ploughed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”
This is what the example provided by those athletes preparing for the 2012 Olympics can teach us. This is what our text for 2012 encourages us to believe and do. To run our race well we need to get rid of all that would distract us or weigh us down, train hard, focus on the example of Jesus and on the goal of the coming kingdom of God, and be encouraged by those who have run before us to run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us.
Mavis Staples - Eyes On The Prize.