Tomorrow the Games of the XXXI Olympiad will draw to their close in Rio de Janeiro. There have been some wonderful, heart warming surprises as Canadian athletes of which many of us hadn’t even heard before amazed and delighted us all with their grace, achievements, and medal winnings. There were disappointments, too, and the usual dark media mutterings about venues not being ready on time, doping scandals, corruption and financial struggles that precede every Olympiad.
Faster, Higher, Stronger is the Olympic motto. It's exciting to watch dedicated, highly motivated, finely tuned athletes pushing the limits of human speed, height and strength.
I wonder if Faster, Higher, Stronger could also be a helpful call to the Christian Church. On one level it is. Being quicker with acts of kindness would be good. The Bible encourages us to set our minds on higher things (Colossians 3:2) and to be strong in the faith (Joshua 1:9). As one of our Anglican General Thanksgiving Prayers goes, “We thank you for setting us tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us. We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone” (The Book of Alternative Services, p129). Our spiritual muscles are strengthened when we engage in spiritual exercise to overcome life’s obstacles.
“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” the Bible says (Hebrews 12:1). Does running with endurance always mean running faster, higher, stronger? Not unless that is what “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) means. Running with his kind of endurance seems to me to be more about slower, deeper and a different kind of stronger—slow, deep worship, prayer, Bible reading and relationship building. There may be the occasional sprint, leap and feat of strength, but endurance is for the long haul—eternity.
Running with Jesus endurance will be like the Olympics in some ways. There will be wonderful, heart warming surprises along the way and we’ll meet and run with people who amaze and delight us with their grace and achievements. There will also be disappointments, darkness and cheats. The podium prize will be a robe (Rev 7:9) rather than a medal and eternal life with Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith who showed us The Way by running before us so well.