Football playoffs, bowl games, championships, and players have been talked about every day in the media for months. People love a good rivalry when it comes to sports and games. This week, spectators transfer their attention from football to the Winter Olympics.
Athletes have convened in Sochi, Russia, for the XXII Olympic Winter Games. The best of the best from countries around this planet will be competing for a medal in their sport. Will you watch any events?
As one announcer used to say, televised coverage allows everyone to witness the “thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” The media also share stories about the athletes’ family backgrounds and the determination, self-discipline and sacrifices involved in their training. Their motivation and ambition are often discussed.
Do the contestants hope for fame or worldly riches? What benefits do they experience from dedicating their lives to a sport? Most competitors fail in their attempts to reach the Olympics. And for the few who actually win a medal, their achievement becomes a memory that quickly fades. The gold medal is a nice prize, but it becomes a decoration.
Paul wrote about running a race for a prize that will last forever. This particular race is a marathon that requires strict training and discipline, and it focuses on people’s hearts and minds over their special abilities. There’s a great crowd of witnesses that cheer on the participants to run with perseverance the path marked out for them. All believers in Jesus Christ who persevere in their faith will be winners and receive God’s promised eternal rewards (1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 12:1; James 1:12). This marathon involves one’s purpose in life.
In Mark Driscoll’s interview, several Seattle Seahawks discussed how life, even in the NFL, is empty without Jesus. They emphasized that Jesus is the greatest treasure and is more important than winning the Super Bowl — the pinnacle of football accomplishments. In the locker room after winning the game, Seahawk teammates knelt in prayer and gave God the glory. Win or lose, an athlete’s character, lifestyle and words can reveal God’s love, grace, and inner peace. Peyton Manning and Tim Tebow exemplify how one’s Christian faith is lived out in life. During these Olympic competitions, will there be any God-glorifying testimonies that encourage others to seek Him?
No matter what our talent is — athletic, musical, mechanical, teaching, etc. — if we use our skills to serve God and His people, then those abilities become spiritual gifts. Some people think they don’t have any special abilities, but the Bible informs us differently. “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others” (1 Peter 4:10). The Lord said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:15).
As children of God, we have been set apart by the Lord to serve Him in a particular way, with an individualized gift that’s been given to us.
Paul instructed Timothy “to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6). Do we look for occasions to strengthen our abilities? Our gifts are not given to us already in full bloom; they need to grow through use.
Repetition of an action enables us to improve; our skills develop with practice. Like athletes who put in the required time of conditioning and practice, we are to exert some effort to enrich our talents and look for opportunities to use them.
Through a parable, Jesus instructed believers to use and develop the talents they were given. If we ignore what we possess and are idle, we anger our Master and receive punishment. However, if we are productive with what we’ve been given, we will receive His praise and are entrusted with more (Matthew 25:14-30). When we serve the Lord and others selflessly, giving our best efforts, God blesses us with rewards both in this life and in our eternal one.
So, what are your talents? Have you turned them into spiritual gifts? At your marathon’s finish line where you meet the Lord face to face, will He praise you with, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Come and share your Master’s happiness!”? That victory will definitely be thrilling …
Cindy Rooy is the author of the Bible study, “Trusting God Through Troubles & Tears.” She’s a contributing author in devotional books and websites and enjoys a speaking ministry. Visit her website at www.cindyrooy.com/