Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Lesson From the Olympics

London 2012 is now history.  Although I didn’t have the time and opportunity to watch as much of the Summer Olympics as I would have liked, I thoroughly enjoyed the events that I was able to view.  One of the special things about watching the Olympics is having my horizons broadened, to become more familiar with previously unfamiliar events.  I will confess that I didn’t even know that team handball exists!

There are many themes that run through the Olympic Games: talent, dedication, support, etc.  One theme that particularly struck me this time was the mental component of athletic competition.  While the world focused on the physical performance, the competitors needed to focus on the mental foundation of their sport.  This was perhaps most apparent in the gymnastics and diving competitions in which nerves play an obvious role, but mental preparation was surely a significant piece of every event.

It has occurred to me that we, as individual Christians and as the body of Christ, can learn from this.  It is easy to focus on performance in a culture that uses productivity to measure a person’s value.  Even in the church, the spirituality of believers is often evaluated based on church attendance, committee work, and “busy-ness” for Christ.  And yet the Apostle Paul, in one of the most famous passages of Scripture, reminds his Corinthian readers that all the “doing” in the Christian world is nothing without love.

This brings us back to the Olympics.  In order to perform as well as possible, each athlete needed to combine mental focus with physical performance and to maintain the mental focus even while competing.  If we are to glorify God in our Christian activity, we need to ground that activity upon a spiritual focus and maintain that spiritual focus as we serve.  As bond-servants of Christ, our eyes are to be on our Master and our hearts are to be set on doing His bidding.  If we do not follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, all of our doing, our activity, our performance, will come up empty; we will not glorify God. 

I know that this is “Christianity 101,” so to speak.  I do not wish to insult anyone’s intelligence or commitment.  I have experienced in my own life, however, the temptation to use “auto pilot” at times, to perform without maintaining a dependence on Christ.  Jesus likened our need to depend on Him to a vine and its branches.  In John 15, Christ tells His disciples that He is the vine and that they are the branches.  The only way to bear fruit is by maintaining the life-flow of that connection.  Without the vine, the branches wither; without Christ, His disciples can bear no fruit.

When an Olympic athlete loses focus, he or she loses a chance at a medal.  Christians have infinitely more at stake.  God’s desire for His children is to produce fruit that has eternal value.  May we encourage one another to maintain and deepen our mindset of complete, continual, and utter dependence on our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.