Weeping as she clutched the cold gold medal, Olympian Lindsay Vonn, the USA women’s champion downhill skier in the 2010 Vancouver Winter games, was quoted as saying “I gave up everything for this.” At the age of 25, she has achieved everything she worked for. In a very similar story, eight time consecutive gold medalist in the 2008 Summer Olympic games, Michael Phelps, America’s swimming hero and Olympic great, was quoted as saying, “This is everything I’ve ever wanted to do, everything I’ve dreamed of.” Shortly following, in an interview he gave to Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show, Michael fumbled when asked about his future; he was at a loss on what to do. He knew that his focus was his body and told Matt that at the next Olympics, his body will be older and he could probably never replicate his hero status again. At the age of 23, Michael Phelps had achieved everything he desired. Following his rise to fame and his status as history’s greatest Olympian, we saw his very public fall from grace when photos of him doing drugs surfaced.
History tells us that Alexander the great, King of Greece in the times before Christ, had conquered his known world by the age of 28 and wept bitterly because achieving his goals and dreams didn’t give him whatever it was that he was looking for. Repeatedly both in pop culture and throughout history, we view icons of sports, fashion, government, and music with awe and wonder, never realizing the sorrow that many of them feel once they have achieved everything they set out within themselves to achieve. The demons of self have the ability to torture both the great achievers and the under reachers. Drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and depression run rampant in the lives of those striving to achieve great things in this life. Countless examples could be shared of those with great wealth and fame who have not found happiness, and sadly, have taken their own lives through suicide or drug overdose when they discover that the glittery pull of self centered, pleasure seeking lives bring with them no earthly reward.
The Bible tells us that life is a race. This race isn’t about who crosses the finish line first, but rather about who is able to endure to the end. Our goal is not to pick up a gold medal and put it across our necks, but rather to take up a wooden, rugged cross, and put it on our backs. The apostle Paul tells us that bodily exercise profits little. This isn’t to say that God doesn’t want us to have healthy, physically fit bodies, but instead to not let the goals and achievements of this life overshadow our eternal purpose. Through our human eyes, the gold is much more attractive than splintered wood, but we are called to serve. Matthew 10:39(NIV) tells us “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” There is no life without Christ. Sure, you breathe oxygen in and expel Carbon dioxide out, but that isn’t truly living.
Are you willing to be an Olympian for Christ? Are you willing to stand in the ranks of Saints, who like Lindsay Vonn in the physical, stood up in the spiritual with a cross instead of a medal and say “I gave up everything for this”? No one ever won a gold medal without intense dedication and the constant denial of self. The same can be said for winning the ultimate prize, eternal life. Purpose in your heart today to take up your cross, follow Jesus, and get some endurance in your spirit. You will not be disappointed if this is the path you take!