As I write this I feel sad that the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro are drawing to a close and so the hours of exciting and enjoyable coverage on television will soon be at an end. But as Christians should we find enjoyment in watching sport? Is it good to take pleasure in seeing one athlete win an event and, inevitably, many others lose?
There’s no doubt in my mind that had he been living in our century the Apostle Paul would have found time to watch some of the Olympics on television. There are several places in his letters where he mentions sport and it seems he was something of a fan. Here’s an example from 2 Timothy 2:5 – “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” In this letter Paul is encouraging Timothy not to give up as a Christian minister and suggests that his young lieutenant can learn a lesson or two from the athletics track.
There seem to be two things that Paul admired as he watched the games: one was the willingness of athletes to endure hardship. When Paul mentions ‘the rules’ he’s probably referring to the strict regime of arduous training that an athlete had to sign up to in the months prior to the event. Even back then athletes were fantastic examples of people who weren’t looking for an easy life but instead showed guts and determination and made sacrifices.
The other thing Paul admired in athletes was that they had a clear understanding of the need to get to the finish. Let’s not buy into the nonsense that all that matters is that we should simply have a go in a race, but no worries if we drop out. No, crossing that line at the end is everything.
“So, apply those lessons to your ministry, Timothy. Be like an athlete! Be determined to stick at it even when the going is tough. And, above all, make sure you finish the work God has called you to do.”
If you’re a sports fan and have spent many happy hours watching the skill of the competitors in Rio, also take a moment to admire the dogged determination that got these athletes to their goal. As a Christian you need something of the same.
Yours in Christ