The Olympic Games was a significant competitive sporting event in the life and times of Jesus, carrying right on through the life of the early church and the ministry of the apostles. It’s no surprise then that the writers in the New Testamant make so many athletic references to “running races”, “training”, “prizes”, “crowns”, all of which were part of the tradition of the Games.
In a few months time, we’ll be celebrating the 2012 Olympics in London. Although the location, scale, format, participating countries, events, and well, practically everything has changed over the years, one tradition has persisted through the ages — the Olympic Torch Relay.
The traditional Lighting Ceremony recently took place on 10 May 2012 at the Temple of Hera, Olympia, home of the Ancient Olympic Games. The torch will travel around Greece, and will arrive in Athens in 2 days time and then arrive in the United Kingdom the next day.
The relay will last 70 days, with 66 evening celebrations, six Island Visits with about 8,000 people carrying the torch a total distance of about 8,000 miles (12,800 km), starting from Land’s End in Cornwall.
This year, the Olympic Torch is perforated by 8,000 circles representing the inspirational stories of the 8,000 Torchbearers who will carry the Olympic Flame.
Our Christian journey of faith reminds me a lot of this relay. It’s not the torch that bore the mark of their testimony, but the Bible. The writer of Hebrews in Chapter 11 talks about the many “inspirational heroes” of faith that came before us. Each of them with their own story about how God delivered them and how His promises were fulfilled in their lives through their faith in Him.
After they carried the “torch”, pressing on in spite of their struggles to take hold of what God had in store for them, they passed their legacy on to the next generation of “torchbearers” who would stand as a lighthouse and witness to the world around them. Their names are familiar to us. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Samson, David, Samuel, and the prophets. The writer doesn’t always tell each of their stories but the very mention of their names makes us recall their great exploits, their journeys, their stories, and sometimes, cautionary tales.
They weren’t perfect people and the Bible did nothing to sugarcoat or hide their flaws. They were murderers, thieves, adulterers, and prostitutes. They were proud, greedy, lustful, and selfish. Yet there they are — the ones we look up to. They were human in their failings but the one common thread running through their lives was that they looked to God in faith. And that’s what set them apart from the rest. They weren’t focused on their insignificant lives, they were focused on an all-powerful God.
They finished their part of the relay and God saw that their faith in Him was well placed. And now they pass their torch to us. The writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Heb 12:1)
They haven’t disappeared, they’re there in the stands cheering us on. Saying as it were, “This faith journey of yours is not going to be easy, it sure wasn’t for me either. But I made it. So, don’t let your sin hinder you. Keep on going. Don’t give up. You can do it.”
There’s always going to be times when we want to just give up. To say it’s too hard and drop the torch. But we’re reminded that we’re not alone in this journey of faith. All those who came before us, even God Himself is cheering us on. Our place in this journey of ours is just to keep running. To be faithful to what God has called us to do and be an example, not even a perfect one, but a very real and human hero to the next generation of believers and faithful followers of Christ!
Take It to the Next Level
What do you feel God has called you to do? It could be something that requires a lot of faith, something that you have to persevere through, it could be a struggle you have to overcome. Whatever it is, he intends to make your hopes, dreams and experiences help others find meaning through their own lives. Your big dream can ignite that same passion in others, your persistence can encourage others to find strength, and your experiences can inspire the world. God can make your story like he used the stories of the faith giants in the Bible – the good, the bad, and the ugly – to be a testimony of His grace working through our faith.
Need an evangelistic Youth Camp/ Bible Study Series with an Olympic Theme?
What is salvation all about? What does it mean to be saved? This sports themed Bible Study / Camp Curriculum uses the Olympic Flag to introduce the concepts of sin (black circle), forgiveness (red circle), purity (white background), spiritual growth (green circle), heaven (Yellow Circle) and (Baptism) blue circle.
-> Tell me about “Go for the Gold”
Need a Youth Camp/ Bible Study Series on “Running the Christian Race”?
The race as a metaphor for the Christian life is used in several places in the Bible. This series is a great follow up for new Christians or to re-emphasize the basics of our spiritual Journey in the Faith. This Bible Study / Camp Curriculum has a sports theme and is great for athletes as well as a tie in to the youth Olympic Games.
->Tell me about “Destined to Win”
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