Train Like an Olympian
July 29, 2021 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
We enjoy watching the Olympics in our home. I marvel at the athleticism of the competitors as they complete incredible feats of strength and skill. For these athletes to compete on the Olympic level, they have dedicated huge amounts of time and effort to practice and hone their abilities. In one sense, they are far from normal as humans.
The apostle Paul as captivated by athletic competition as well. Several times in his letters he invokes the imagery of athletes as a model for Christian living. In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 he writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
Notice a couple of parallels between athletics and the Christian life:
- There is a prize for believers who persevere in faith. Athletes compete for a prize. So also believers are offered a prize. Paul explains this prize in Philippians 3:14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The prize for believers is union with Christ in heaven for eternity. That prize is far greater than any earthly reward.
- Discipline is required to win the prize. The prize of heaven is not given just to anyone. It is for those who persevere in faith, an ongoing trust and resting in Christ for salvation. The writer of Hebrews affirms this in 3:14, “We have come to share in Christ [i.e., the prize!], if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end [i.e., persevere in faith].” In 1 Corinthians 9:25, Paul speaks about “self-control.” This carries the idea of having our desires under the control of Christ. To persevere in faith requires that we do not let inordinate desires dictate our thoughts and actions; our desires are to be submitted to and satisfied in Christ.
In Titus 2:12 we again see Paul use athletic language in the context of “self-control.” He writes, “The grace of God has appeared…training us to…live self-controlled…” (v. 11-12). The word “training” is an athletic term for the regimen an athlete will follow to be prepared for competition. Notice what Paul says. The “grace of God” sets that regimen for preparing us to live “self-controlled.”
We are called to train like an Olympian in the gymnasium of grace so that we will live self-controlled in order that we may obtain the prize. In other words, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Let’s train like Olympians in the grace of God!