The day at last has come. The cable is installed. Cornish Pasties are mere hours away. The land of our noble fathers and forebears rings with celebration. The world has gathered like a great cloud of witnesses to see men and women throw off fear and trial to run the race before them. It is the time for heroes to emerge and history to unfold.
Our family enjoys the Olympics. We enjoy the pageantry, the drama and the sheer delight of seeing men and women gather from every nation, people, tribe and tongue to demonstrate the power, speed , agility and beauty of bodies that God formed and fashioned from mere dust.
The Apostle Paul loved the games. Time and time again, he alludes to them, but he always sets them in perspective.
“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV)
The Olympics unveils the fruit of countless hours of suffering, sacrifice and perseverance in training, in places unknown to us. The costs of training Olympic athletes are high and the commitment required to reach this level of competition consumes whole decades and phases of the athletes lives – all to obtain a crown that fades. Paul reminds us,
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. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV)
When the Olympians stream into the stadium in London tonight they will be welcomed by a great cloud of witnesses. No doubt they will feel an overwhelming sense of encouragement to put aside every distraction and every failure and every hurdle and run with perseverance the race before them. My beloved, how much greater is our privilege to enter the eternal stadium, to be surrounded by that great cloud of witnesses; myriads of angels in joyful assembly, the spirits of just men made perfect and the blood that speaks a better word then the blood of Abel. Let us run the race, keeping our eye on the champion, the captain of our salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ. I am always struck by the words of Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire as he explains to his sister why running in the 1924 Olympics is not a distraction for him as a believer — “when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”
My friend, run to get the prize. Run for God’s pleasure, not man’s applause. Fix your eye on Christ. Forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead, press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
It is the time for heroes to emerge and history to unfold – heroes like Bill and Emma Lou Wheeler, Preacher Paul, Prue Kelly, Ben Forrester, Carl Hall, David and Marium Oates, J. Don Aderhold, Larry Aultman, Q. J. Clifton, Gene Jones, Harold Light, Jim Mason, Tony Woodall, Al Vater, Wayne Black, Scoti Old and other witnesses to numerous to mention who have challenged and admonished me to run the race, to keep my eye fixed on Christ.
It is the time for heroes to emerge and history to unfold. It is time for us to run the race and feel God’s pleasure.