What Christians Can Learn From the Top Olympic Athletes by Ed Stetzer and Gabriella Siefert

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Just last week, the torch in Pyeonchang, South Korea, was lit; the 2018 Winter Olympic Games have begun. Over the next week or so, the world will watch as teams compete in a myriad of events from bobsledding to biathlons across the snowy slopes.

Athletic events like this are an incredible display of human talent and the wondrous works that are our physical bodies. These competitors’ capacity to perform such feats of physical strength and mental discipline are an astounding testament to God’s creative genius.

Believers competing at this level recognize that their capabilities are a gift from God to be used for his glory. In Romans 12, Paul instructs believers, because of God’s mercy, to offer our bodies as a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God,” saying that this is a form of “true and proper worship.”

Many (rightly) apply this to their work, athletics, and other efforts.

Many churchgoers might find this verse and the application quite puzzling. Worship in our minds involves music, lyrics, and raised hands. It’s something you do in church before the pastor gets up to give a sermon; it gives glory and praise to God and brings peace to our weary hearts. But Paul’s understanding of worship seems much broader.

Now, that does not devalue the worship we do in church. But we can work as worship. We can run as worship. And there is much more.

So, in light of the Olympics, it is worth considering at this time.

As Christ’s church, do we consider physical activity—be it running, swimming, or dancing—as acts of worship unto the Lord? Do we understand that God is glorified in our stewardship of the gifts and talents he has so graciously given to us?

Few Olympic athletes knew this better than Eric Liddell. Most know him from the Oscar winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire; those who’ve seen it know that Liddell was no ordinary competitor. The races he managed to win throughout his career baffled whole crowds and fellow competitors alike.

Callings in Competition

Most notably, Liddell wasn’t just a runner.

He was a missionary with great love for the people of China. He felt this tension rising within him between two passions—one for the track, another for spreading the gospel. They seem to most Christians to be at odds with one another; in these cases, we tend to separate what we see as secular from that which is sacred.

Some believers would look at Liddell’s life and love for preaching and be quick to ship him off to China without a second thought. Many would assume that God is most glorified through our engagement in that which is overtly spiritual in nature; going to church is more ‘holy’ than dance rehearsal or clay class, etc.

But Liddell’s words in Chariots of Fire might indicate something different. In one of the films most beloved scenes, the runner explains:

I believe that God made me for a purpose—for China. But, he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure. To give that up would be to hold him in contempt… It’s not just fun; to win, is to honor him.

Liddell knew that his purpose in this life—his calling—wasn’t singular. It couldn’t be reduced down to one activity, place, or people. For Christians, no activity is ‘secular,’ all is sacred because we—our hearts, minds, and bodies—belong to a holy God.

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Source: Christianity Today