Let the Games Begin

In these next few weeks news will be focused on the heroism of athletes competing in the Olympic Games. From the Bible we can learn much from the athletics illustrations of life. Consider these metaphors. 

First, “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5). Similarly, every believer must live in obedience to the standards set by God.

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.” (1 Corinthians 9:25) “Self-control” means “self-restraint, self-government.” This involves avoiding negative, carnal, and impure secular toxins.

In contrast we must “Train yourself for godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:7) “Train” (Greek gymnaz?) literally means “to exercise naked.”  No females were allowed in the gym or to attend the contest. They removed all hindrances, so we need to rid our life from what hinders us. 

Winners had to extend themselves to win the crown. So we must “toil” (1 Timothy 4:10) to win the prize. “Labor” (Greek kopia?) means “to toil to the point of exhaustion.” In the pursuit of holiness, we must give ourselves until we have nothing left to give. Again using the athletic metaphor, “I press on” (Phil. 3:12), employing a word (Greek diok?) meaning “to move rapidly and decisively after an object.” This requires running after the knowledge of Christ as fast as our spiritual legs can propel us. The Bible says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb. 12:1) This “race” (Greek ag?n) was the excruciating long-distance event that involved agony and agonizing. We must constantly expend ourselves in running the lifelong race set before us.

The boxer entered the ring to fight his opponent. A line was drawn and the contestants had to “toe the line.” The object was to either knock out the opponent or disable him so he could not toe the line in the allotted time. An ancient boxer could not afford to wear himself out by throwing wild punches that never connected. He had only so much strength to expend. Every punch had to be on target. In the same way, like a boxer: “I do not box as one beating the air.” (1 Cor. 9:26) In our spiritual life, we are not shadowboxing and jabbing at thin air. One must resolve, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (v. 27) “Discipline” (Greek hupopiaz?) literally means “to bruise, to beat black and blue.”The object is to  beat down our formidable spiritual foe.

Returning to the metaphor of the runner requires “forgetting what lies behind.” (Phil. 3:13) He could not win the crown if he was looking back over his shoulder at his past failures or victories.  We must be “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” (Heb. 12:2) Our singular focus must remain on Christ, who generates the strength we need to run with endurance. Keeping our gaze on Christ produces the stamina.