A Gold Medal Life

Athletes from around the world converging on the ancient city of Athens; flags of nations paraded through stadiums, courts, and fields; millions from across the world tuning in to catch glimpse of glory; the whole production is really quite spectacular. It represents a unique moment in the world's affairs, a time when nations come together in a spirit of good will and spirited competition.


No doubt we'll be exposed to stats and scores, names and faces, winners and losers. History will be made, and stars will rise to the top, carrying home gold and silver medals in the name of their country.


To win in the Olympics takes discipline. It takes resolve. To win takes sacrifice and pain. But when the flag is raised and the anthem is trumpeted, all the years of hard work are rewarded in a single moment of glory.


I hate discipline, to be honest with you. The thought of Olympians jumping out of bed at four in the morning ready to run laps, workout at the gym, and meet with a trainer makes my office-job and couch-lounging body cringe. But deep down I know the rewards of discipline outweigh the sacrifices.


The Apostle Paul was a fan of athletics, and even referenced Olympic-style competition in the Bible. He spoke of a victory crown greater than earthly medals: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly . . ." (1 Cor. 9:24-26, NIV).


Paul saw sporting events as an illustration of spiritual life. Just as a runner might run a race, each of us has a "personal race" to which God has called us. He knew this race to fulfill God's purpose would take discipline; he knew it would take focus and resolve.


The reward for a "gold-medal life" is far greater than a gold medal, as the verse reveals, "we do it to get a crown that will last forever."


So how can I live a gold medal life?


In my own spiritual journey, I've come to recognize that fulfilling God's purpose isn't some huge, heroic endeavor reserved only for an elite class of spiritual power-lifters. It doesn't take exceptional abilities to answer God's call, but it does take exceptional discipline. I can't "run like a man running aimlessly" and expect to receive a prize.


Living a gold medal life begins with a simple commitment to God ­ "I want to fulfill your purpose, Lord. Help me discover what you want me to do." I remember vividly the day I made that choice, and my life was transformed. But words alone don't win medals. My decision to enter the race was only the beginning ­ the finish line is yet to come.


Spiritual discipline is challenging, perhaps even more so than physical discipline; saying "no" to temptations, taking steps to know God better, investing time at church, serving others faithfully, setting aside my own will to accomplish a higher purpose.


Living a gold medal life isn't easy. You can't retire. You can't take a week off. Like an aspiring Olympian, you have to give it your all. At the end of the day, however, faithful runners in life's race will receive a reward far greater than anything this world has to offer.


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I originally wrote this article for the Marco Island Sun Times.

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