Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY
With the Olympic Games nearing the halfway point, I once again have a case of Olympic Fever. It happens to me every couple of years. For two weeks or so I find myself glued to my television set to watch the best athletes in the world compete in their respective sports, and there is nothing that brings me more joy than watching American athletes bring home the gold (USA!). And if you’ve been watching the games like me than you already know that they’re racking up quite the hardware collection of gold, silver, and bronze.
And that’s the point. These athletes have dedicated their whole lives in pursuit of becoming the best in the world. They train, practice, and work day in and day out with the hope of one day standing on top of the podium singing their national anthem. And this is nothing new. Long before Michael Phelps or Simone Biles were lip singing the star spangled banner, athletes have been putting their skills to the test with their eyes set on one thing: the prize. And the Apostle Paul thought that followers of Jesus could learn something from them. It’s why he wrote this to the church in Corinth:
“24Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one. 26So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27 but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.” (1 Cor. 9:24-27)
Paul’s point was this: if athletes are willing to dedicate their entire lives in pursuit of a ribbon, how much more should we be willing to dedicate our entire lives in pursuit of Jesus. Gold metals, after all, are a pretty worthy prize, but certainly an earthly one. Abundant life, everlasting peace, and communion with Jesus are imperishable prizes that will never fail us and never fade. But life following Jesus is one of commitment and discipline. Like athletes, it’s a way of life. Like hitting the gym, we must practice. And like Olympians, we must live with intentionality and purpose (you know, don’t box as though you’re beating the air).
We can’t all be Katie Ledecky or Aly Raisman, and the closest most of us will get to the Olympic Games is our living room, but when it comes to running the race of faith you are Usain Bolt (regarded as the fastest person ever timed). God made you to be in relationship with him. So like an athlete, pursue it.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.