This story appears in FCA Magazine’s January/February 2018.
Having spent so much time in and around the world of sports, I’ve learned the most successful coaches and athletes are those who are truly dedicated to their craft. It’s true in all walks of life, but I believe it bears itself out most clearly in athletics. Once the competition begins, pure talent only goes so far; at some point, those who dedicated the most time and energy to training, planning and preparing have the advantage.
I don’t know if there is a better picture of dedication than what we see in Olympic athletes. These men and women spend thousands of hours over the course of four years preparing for their few minutes — sometimes seconds — of Olympic glory. Then, when the flame is extinguished, they return to their countries to begin preparing for their next shot at Olympic gold, which doesn’t come for another four years!
It might not happen for years, but those athletes are preparing to do something amazing. Similarly, Joshua wanted the Israelites to prepare. In Joshua 3:5 (NIV), he instructed them to get ready to be used by God: “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.”
The word “consecrate” is interesting. It means “to set apart; designate or dedicate for a special purpose.” Consecration is a complete surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Put it all together, and that verse is saying to surrender our lives and dedicate all we have to the Lord, for a day will come when He’ll do far beyond what we believe is possible.
An Olympic athlete I am not, but I’ve always been a fan of the many Olympic-themed movies. Two come to mind when thinking about this message from Joshua.
In the movie Cool Runnings, Coach Irv says, “A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without one, you’ll never be enough with one.”
And in Chariots of Fire, the actor portraying Eric Liddell says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
Both statements are amazing pictures of pursuing our goals with all we have, enduring the trials that will inevitably come, while understanding that gold medals and achievements will only satisfy to a certain point. It’s in Christ, in living and competing for Him, that our true identity and fulfillment can be found.
Read this encouragement from 1 Peter 1:6-7: “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold — though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.”
As you watch and revel at the dedication of the Olympic athletes competing in PyeongChang this winter, I pray it reminds you that you have your own individual opportunities each day to allow your dedication to Christ to shine through. Some, like when the barista fills your order at the coffee shop, might be like the ski jump in that they last only a matter of seconds. Others, like daily interactions with our spouses, children, coworkers and friends, are more a matter of endurance like cross-country skiing.
Whatever the scenario, we can all be Christ’s ambassadors for His Kingdom, consecrated to fulfill His special purposes.