Olympic Lessons

An Olympic hangover pervades after a fortnight of winter games. The world’s premier athletes, vying for gold, magnetize us to our flat-screens, and we return each night for a showcase of fierce competition and national pride.

More than just the pinnacle of sports, the personal dramas intrigue us—stories of incessant training, injuries and setbacks, childhoods lost, financial sacrifice, family tragedy and adversity. Focused, determined, relentless, they long for the prize. When they finally achieve their GOLD, we applaud them and share their moment. A lifetime of hardships now rewarded.

For every triumphant athlete dozens lie in their wake. The stats reveal that 2800 athletes competed, and only 294 medals were given out. I’ll do the math for you. Considering that some athletes got more than one medal, this means that at least 2,506 returned home empty-handed and empty-hearted. Of the 88 countries participating, only one third stood on the podium. Many were eliminated in the qualifying rounds, never even having a chance to compete for a medal.

Dreams shattered, opportunities expired, bank accounts depleted. No doubt, many are grateful to have had the opportunity. But, for many of these highly competitive athletes, some who lost their race by 3 one-hundredths of a second, coming home medal-less is a bitter pill to swallow.

The Apostle Paul used competitive sports to teach spiritual truths. In ancient athletic contests the winners wore a crown, a vine wreath.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 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” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

“Train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Eternal, imperishable crowns don’t require herculean strength but they do require training. God gives us his Word to train us in righteousness so that we will be equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

So many spiritual lessons can be drawn from the Olympics. What are some that impacted you?

11 comments to Olympic Lessons

  • warren

    This passage in I Cor 9 always haunts me during the Olympics. Do I really believe that my Father in heaven really means what He says. Thanks…

  • Joy S

    We did not watch the Olympics this year as we do not have a TV to watch (except for videos). But I always remember hearing how when people are running a race they get to a point where they feel they can not continue. But as they push on, they eventually get a fresh wind of energy.

    There have been times in memorizing chapters I would get most of the way through, and then reach a point where it was hard to keep moving forward. It would take great effort just to memorize one phrase of one verse, and then the next day I would have to start over because it was forgotten. (And this is coming from a person who sometimes memorizes more than one verse a day.) Sometimes stopping that project to memorize a shorter passage of a different genre was what I needed to get a burst of energy again where I could go back to the old project and finish it.

    Once while trying to finish Isaiah 53, after setting it aside for a several months, I decided that I waited long enough, and I determined to finish Isaiah 53 no matter what. There were times that I could only do a phrase a day, but after pushing through a bit, all of a sudden the meaning of the words came together in a fresh way and the burst of energy was there and I was able to finish that chapter. Sometimes the burst of energy came when the passage was finished, and the energy could them be used on the review and next passage.

    Yesterday I was comparing memorizing scripture to exercise. Sometimes I just don’t want to do it, but I do it anyway because I know it is good to do. I can’t be led by emotions, feelings. Hunger for God’s word (like love & marriage) is not always an emotion/feeling, but a dedication and a commitment.

    • Hi Joy, I think all memorizers can relate to what you said. It requires a lot of perseverance, even though it is joyful. Sometimes at night when I am too tired to go over my verses, I just read them out loud, which still has a benefit. My energy level takes a nose-dive after 9:00. Something that helps me also, is to alternate long and short passages. I never do 2 long books back to back. Often, in the middle of a long book I will take a break and do a Psalm or a one chapter passage. Thanks for sharing your experience with our community.

  • Chérie

    I feel like an aberration during the Olympics. Everyone talks about it, and then there’s me…. not an athletic bone in my body—I can’t identify? 
    My kids gave up batting practice with me because 25 “diagonal” balls in a row is exasperating. When my youngest began UPWARD (basketball), I kept asking other moms why the ref blew the whistle “this time”.
    I should’ve been a gal who stays home knitting and has 32 cats—but, well I’m a dog person?
    HOWEVER! To memorize chapters and books of scripture, we need the Olympic attitude of, “we want it bad enough to work for it”, redeeming every mini-moment by reviewing & reciting. 
    Olympic athletes have many previous “wins” in their sport and therefore a reputation to uphold and a sport to proudly represent. Even their downtime is used to stretch muscles. 
    Memorizers recite while doing chores, fighting traffic or through a mouthful of toothpaste twice daily, because Phil 3:16 says “let us live up to what we’ve already attained”. Gods Word is “more precious than gold, than much pure gold.” (Ps 19:10a)
    I can’t throw a ball worth beans, much less skate or run, but I’m so grateful for the gold of etching scripture in my memory. 

    • Hi Cherie, I can relate. I grew up in a home where everyone was athletic, except me. Oh well. I’m a spectator! A few days ago I tweeted this, but it bears repeating, “The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold” Psalm 119:72.

  • Christal

    Just popping in to say I enjoyed reading this post AND all the comments. Thanks for sharing!

  • Linda

    Spiritual Lesson From The Olympics — Never Give Up!! 🙂

  • Mickey

    Janet here is a poem I thought would go well with this post, it’s called God’s Hall of Fame

    Your name may not appear down here in this world’s Hall of Fame,
    in fact you may be so unknown that no one knows your name.
    This hall of fame is only good, as long as time shall be,
    but keep in mind “God’s Hall of Fame” is for Eternity.

    To have your name inscribed up there, is greater, yes, by far,
    than all the halls of fame down here, and every man made star.
    The crowds on earth, they soon forget, the heroes of the past,
    they cheer like mad until you fall. And that’s how long you last.

    But God, He never does forget, and in His “Hall of Fame”
    by just believing in his Son, inscribed you’ll find your name.

    I tell you friend, I wouldn’t trade my name — however small,
    that’s written there, beyond the stars, in that celestial hall –
    for every famous name on earth, or glory that they share.
    I’d rather be an unknown here, and have my name up there.