Going for the Gold – Theology Essay
The Hamm twins have come a long way from swinging from the rafters in their Waukesha, WI barn to going for a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Paul Hamm became the first American in Olympic history to win the Men’s All-Around Gymnastics gold medal. I must confess that I thought that his medal hopes were surely over when he took a tragic fall on his vault landing.
But Paul Hamm went on to perform two of the most spectacular and flawless routines of his career to win an Olympic gold medal by the closest margin in Olympic history.
It’s astounding to hear the numerous stories of adversity that these Olympians have had to overcome just to compete in the games. Such as 16 year-old Dana Vollmer who underwent heart surgery and has to have a defibulator at every meet she competes in. She swam on the women’s 800-meter freestyle relay team that broke the oldest record in swimming and won the gold.
What propels these men and women to become Olympic champions? When the Apostle Paul wrote about the race of life that we must all run, he referred to the Olympic athletes. “Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one gets the prize. You must also run in such a way that you will win . . . They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize” (I Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT).
How can we become champions who go for the gold and win the prize of eternal life and wear the victor’s crown when we stand before God someday? Consider the eight principles that will propel you to victory in the race of life.
First – You must LEGALLY QUALIFY and LAWFULLY RUN. Not just any athlete can compete in the games. They must first qualify in the trials. To be in the Christian race you must first qualify. There is only one way to qualify in this race. Jesus said, “You must be born again” (John 3:3). You must have a spiritual birth from above by putting your faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for your sins. (See John 1:12 and Ephesians 2:8-9.) Many athletes were disqualified because they did not compete according to the rules. Jesus said, “If you love me keep my commandments.” But there is Good News. If we are disqualified in our race, God is merciful. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9-10).
Second – LEARN from others. Paul tells us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. (See Hebrews 12:1.) They are in the grandstands of heaven cheering us on. Be encouraged by them. Learn from them. (See Hebrews 11.) All Olympic athletes have a coach. Great men and women of the Bible and godly men and women who have gone before us and those around us can teach and inspire us.
Third – LENGTHEN your Stride and Staying Power. To go for the gold requires endurance, perseverance, and much patience. Paul gives us key principles for the race of life. “Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Don’t give up. Only training and discipline can develop your endurance. (See Hebrews 12:12-13, I Corinthians 9:25, 27, and James 1:14, 12.) Lift up your hands, head, heals, and heart.
Fourth – LIGHTEN your LOAD. Champions will lay aside everything that slows them down. “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress” (Hebrews 12:1 NLT).
Fifth – LOOK to Jesus. Every athlete must keep their eyes on the goal. To take your eyes off the goal is to become disheartened, to loose your way, or to make a misstep that could cost you the race. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2-3). Jesus is our all. He is our goal, aim, motivation, inspiration, power, and our prize. Consider what he endured for you.
Sixth – LOVE Discipline and Training. A champion learns to love the discipline and training that it takes to make them a winner. They know that without pain there is no gain. Our coach disciplines us for our good. (See Hebrews 12:4-11.)
Seventh – LIVE a Clean and Holy life. Athletes know that to be a champion they must take care of their body and attitude. An Olympic champion must have heart and character. Many times a less talented athlete wins over a more gifted competitor simply because they had more heart. What pleases God and makes one a winner in our heavenly judge’s eyes is character of heart – holiness. “Try to live in peace with everyone and seek to live a clean and holy life for those who are not holy will not see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14-17 NLT). There is only one way to be holy and clean in heart. Come to Jesus “the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people and to the sprinkled blood which graciously forgives instead of crying out for vengeance as the blood of Able did” (Hebrews 12:22-24 NLT).
Eighth – LONG for the Victor’s Crown. (See Hebrews 12:22-23.) What motivates and propels an Olympian? A gold medal. The ancient Olympians competed for a laurel wreath. It symbolized a champion. Paul said that they did it for a crown that perishes. The glory of this world doesn’t last. Go for the gold that lasts. The prize that doesn’t fade away – eternity in the heavens. God’s rewards and glory are everlasting. When you long for heaven and heaven’s Prize you will have a hope and helper to propel you to victory. Go for the gold!