The summer Olympic Games were not able to happen last year for obvious reasons. So, after rescheduling for this year, we are now able to view games again through the wonders of television. Some of the participants have trained most of their lives for a short few moments of glory. The physical strength and mental focus it takes to perform on such a monumental platform in front of the whole world can appear to be super human.
Over 11,000 Olympians from 206 countries are competing for a few coveted golden medallions. Some will take home the silver and others a bronze medal from Tokyo this year. Across America, we watch eagerly to cheer on a young athlete whom we don’t know and will most likely never meet. We want them to win, we cheer them on, we believe for the impossible, and, when it’s all finished, they stand proudly, representing an entire nation on a podium, donning a medal, while their anthem is played for the world to see. It would be disappointing to train for so many years to finish fourth and come out with no medal. It would be horrific to reach the games with the end in sight only to miss your opportunity at the last minute, and it would be tragic to stand on a podium and represent a country you didn’t respect. Podiums are designed to stand upon during a ceremonial honoring of the winner; they were never designed for sitting or kneeling.
Races aren’t won in the first leg alone; they’re only won when the whole race is complete. A sprinter can’t let up when he’s tired. A swimmer can’t relax after the first lap, and gymnasts can’t lose focus halfway through a routine. The medal can only be won by fully finishing the race. Paul mentions the race in his second letter to Timothy, only after he has completed the whole of his task. Paul writes in chapter 4 and verse 7, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Notice there is more than one step to the race. Paul lists three of these - I have fought, I have finished, and I have kept. Paul compares our walk with Christ as a race, and races aren’t won by executing only one third of the program. We can’t serve the Lord on Sunday and live for the world the remainder of the week and be successful. We’ll never stand on God’s podium unless we fight, finish, and keep!
You may say, “But you don’t know what I’m going through; it’s harder for me.” Well my answer to that is “the apostle Paul.” He was stoned, blinded, persecuted, whipped, hated, imprisoned, and shipwrecked, and he saw fit to write to you a letter of encouragement from a jail cell. He even prayed his thorn would go away, but we never find evidence that it actually did. He left the battlefield with honor and stood atop God’s podium, and you and I can, too.
Remember the race isn’t over just because you did a good thing for someone or maybe you attended church once with a friend. The race isn’t complete because you used to be excited about the Lord. And, remember, faith is only good intention if you fail to keep it until the race is over. You can’t run someone else’s race, and you will never stand on someone else’s podium. Swimmers don’t stand on gymnast platforms, and neither will you reach heaven on someone else’s merit. You’re custom designed for your race and only your race.
Come run with us at Christpoint Church, on the square, in Sparta, this Sunday. We have two start times. The races will begin at 9 a.m. and again at 11 a.m. We’re real people, living real lives, serving a real God. Welcome home.