Watching the Olympics these past several weeks has been remarkable. I am always amazed at the tremendous talent and drive that these athletes possess.
We recently went on vacation as a family and enjoyed staying up late watching the different sports, behind-the-scenes stories, and medals being awarded. From gymnastics to track and field events, I was struck by the fact that no matter what the sport was, each of the gold medalists had several things in common. Each of these commonalities taught me lessons about what it takes to succeed in any sphere of life.
Each of these athletes (and particularly the ones that excelled as the gold medalists) made it their top priority to become the best in their sport. That means they said “no” to other things…a lot of other things. They had single-minded focus on their sport. They put it above all other endeavors so they could become the best. As I watched them, I asked myself, “Am I prioritizing what God has called me to do? Am I saying ‘no’ to lesser things so that I can say ‘yes’ to the best things?”
It was very obvious that these top athletes were not quitters. They know what it means to persevere. Many of them faced setbacks, injuries, and other obstacles, but they did not let these bring them down or cause them to throw in the towel. They persevered through pain, fatigue, and great doubt and pushed through to the end. I am reminded of Hebrews 12:11, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” When we learn to persevere through difficulties (in any sphere) and discipline ourselves to push through the pain (whether physical, mental or spiritual), we can experience that peaceful fruit.
The pay-off of these first 2 is the reward. In the case of the Olympics, it is the coveted gold medal. It the goal reached. It is the dream realized. Watching the gold medalists receive their pay-off was very moving. To see the tears in their eyes for a job well-done and being honored for their incredible hard work was so inspirational. This is where the second half of Hebrews 12:11 hits home: “…but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hard work pays off.
It was interesting to watch the reactions of different gold medal winners. Some seemed to be very focused on themselves and receiving all the honor and glory, while others sought to immediately give praise and glory to God. They were quick to thank their Creator and Savior. Some even pointed toward heaven and mouthed the words, “Thank you, Jesus!” upon winning. They embodied 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
Whether we are athletes or not, we can all learn lessons from Olympians who have put their heart and soul into their sport. Are we living with such passion and purpose? Are we prioritizing and persevering in our specific calling, that we might experience the pay-off and praise God for it?