I admit it: I’m an Olympic junkie. For two weeks during the Vancouver Olympics, I sat transfixed in front of my television set watching sports that I only watch once every four years. (Can you say “skeleton?”)
The human interest stories capture my attention. The skater, Joannie Rochettte, who skated to a bronze medal despite her mother’s death a few days before the competition started. The Georgian team performing admirably even after a team member’s tragic death. Or the American bobsled team, who won gold at the hands of a driver suffering such severe eye trouble that he brought along his own eye doctor!
Every athlete participating in the Olympics has disciplined their bodies and mind. Careful exercise routines and diets are laid out for them by their coaches. They spend hours and hours practicing; beating response from their bodies because events are won or lost by fractions of a second or less than a point.
That dedication never fails to nudge me to be more dedicated, more faithful to God. The Olympic athletes train years upon years, putting in hundreds of hours for the chance to shine on the world stage, to possibly win gold, silver or bronze. But there is another reward even greater than those medals and I cringe in horror at the times when I realize I rarely match the time these athletes practice for a shiny piece of metal.
In II Timothy 4:7-8, Paul explains our reward. He writes, “I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge – will award me on that day – not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearing.”
Paul knows, just like the Olympians, that he has been in a battle, not against the clock or each other, but against Satan. We are at war, but we also know the outcome. God wins, Satan loses.
But what about us? Sharing in God’s victory, we will receive the crown of righteousness if we remain faithful like Paul. But do I work as hard as an Olympic athlete? Do I pray daily? Do I open my Bible and study it every day? Do I always treat others with care and compassion?
Sadly, I have to say no to all of those questions. Does that mean my crown of righteousness means less than an Olympic gold medal? Definitely not! It is just so easy to put off heavenly pursuits because the prize is unseen. Yet, they seem so little to ask given the majestic glory of God’s heavenly kingdom. Every day, I must remind myself that God will crown me with righteousness for what I exhibited here on earth.
The choices we make every day exercise our will the same way a treadmill exercises our muscles. They determine whether we grow spiritually strong or remain spiritually weak.
I pray each evening that I can give a positive response to one very simple question: “What have I done today that will make heaven different?”