Philosophy Lite: Run on God's Olympic team
As the Olympic fever subsides, let us consider how we might relate to those athletes in a spiritual sense. First, we need to think about our talents or strengths. What is it that we are good at?
Nobody with a bodily weakness could think about being an Olympic champion, yet on God's team, there are thousands who work through their handicaps and become champions for the Lord. Maintaining a vision of what we can become will take us far.
Second, comes the training period. Those who compete for earthly prizes undertake a rigorous training procedure. The adage, "use it or lose it," comes to mind. As Christians, the more we get involved, the better we become in service. Hebrews 12:1 says, "Wherefore seeing, we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." The runner must be disciplined, denying himself a few earthly pleasures to gain the pleasures of eternal life.
Thirdly, there is the subject of endurance: Proverbs 24:10 says, "If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small." On the other hand, Isaiah 40:31 says, "But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Endurance is best accomplished by keeping our mind centered on the goal."
Fourth, the Olympic runner must care for his body. He must eat that which best serves his body and abstain from that which is hurtful. He must exercise daily.
We can sum all of this up in one man. Some of you may remember the movie, "Chariots of Fire," which portrayed the life of the Scotch runner Eric Liddell. Born of parents who were missionaries to China, he had a strong Christian faith. Once, when the Prince of Wales urged him to run an important race on Sunday, he politely refused, hinting politely that he honored a higher king. Liddell felt he was running for the Lord, "I believe God made me for a purpose," he said, "But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel pleasure."
The Scottish sprinter then headed off to China. An Olympic gold medal had unquestionable value, but to that young man still in his 20s, faith in Christ and serving him as a missionary far surpassed any earthly achievement. When the Japanese occupied China, Liddell was taken prisoner and spent the remainder of his days in an internment camp. It was there, on Feb. 21, 1945, in his early 40s that the principled Liddell died.
Heroics are an important part of our civilizing and spiritual formation. Heroes give us a example to emulate. Consider Bible characters as pace runners who set the pace for our lifelong marathon.
Raymond F. Smith is president of Strong Families of Victoria.