Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Do you want to be an Olympian?

Much of the planet has been captivated these past two weeks by the Olympic Games. The world’s best athletes have been winning gold, silver, and bronze medals in track & field, swimming, gymnastics, team sports, and a host of other events.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to just step on the scene in Beijing and compete for the gold? I know I am not the only one who has had this dream. Admit it, you’ve imagined what it would be like to stand on the podium and hear the Star Spangled Banner because you just won the gold. But, here’s the catch - the athletes winning these medals didn’t receive them by just dreaming; they showed up with years of preparation under their belts. They put in the hard work required to represent their countries in the big game.

I don’t think we would likely hear the following conversation between the coach of the Olympic water polo team and one of his players. Check this out:
Player: Hey coach, put me in. I’m ready to play. Come on, let’s go.
Coach: Who are you?
Player: I’m Jimmy. I’m on the team. Look, I am wearing the team uniform and I’m ready. Put me in.
Coach: I don’t remember you being on this team. Have you been to practice?
Player: No, but I’m here now and I’m ready to go in.
Coach: I don’t think so. You haven’t been to practice. You are obviously out of shape. I can’t trust you in the pool. I don’t know if you can swim, catch, or throw. And finally, you don’t know our playbook and won’t understand the signals I send in from the side lines. Again, I don’t know who you are, but I can guarantee you that you will not be going into this game. This game is for the Olympic gold medal. Everything is on the line. I am playing those who are ready – those who are prepared. Take a seat.
Now, let’s look at this concept of preparation from a slightly different perspective. As Christians, we have become citizens of God’s kingdom and have the opportunity to play on His team. The question is, are we going to be ready for the big game? Are we going to be prepared for the ministry that God has prepared for us?

Do you realize that Jesus actually prepared for His earthly ministry? Because of His humanity, He had to prepare to be used by His heavenly Father while on earth. He studied scripture; He was baptized and received the Holy Spirit; He prayed and fasted; He said no to temptation. (Checkout Luke chapters 2, 3, and 4 for the details.) He did all of these things before being launched into ministry before being put into the big game. If Jesus prepared Himself for the big game, don’t you think it would be a good idea if we prepared ourselves? We must always be in training. We can’t be arrogant and think that we can just suit up and play in the big game without conditioning, practice, training, and a thorough knowledge of the playbook.

God has a role for each one of us in the big game of His kingdom. He wants to give us the ball. But, we must be coachable. We must follow the example of our coach and the other successful players who have gone before us; those who have finished well and have been mightily used by God. Let’s prepare ourselves by studying the Word of God, by listening and responding to the Holy Spirit, by praying and fasting, and by saying no to the temptations of this fallen world. Let’s become the spiritual Olympians we have been called to be.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

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