In modern Olympic games there have been numerous documented cases of performance enhancing drug use; a practice that makes athletes stronger in the short run…but can lead to heart, kidney, and liver disease, and crippling injuries. When Lilly King won the 100 meter breast stroke in Rio this week she said in an interview, “we can still compete clean and do well at the Olympic Games.” King had just defeated Russian rival Yulia Efimova who had been accused of past drug doping.
We tend to idealize the ancient Olympians who said that it was the “agone” or “glorious struggle” rather than victory itself, that was most important. But even then, there were athletes willing to cheat in order to win cash prizes, prestige, and the sweet satisfaction of beating a rival. In AD 67 Emperor Nero took part in a 10-horse chariot race in the Games, an event added for his benefit; but when he fell and failed to complete the race, he arranged to be declared the winner anyway!
Those who seek to win at all cost gain little respect in the Olympics or in the everyday world. Paul reminds Timothy that the Christian life should be marked by integrity. “In the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:9). Coaches have found that athletes who make it their goal to do their best and “to make gradual improvement, experience success more frequently, persist at tasks longer and are more confident” (Principles of Effective Goal Setting, by Eva V. Monsma, Ph. D.). Those who seek to do their best for God have an even more powerful motivation.
I’m thinking of the words of Eric Little, the sprinter and future Christian missionary who won a gold medal in the 1924 Olympics: "I believe that God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.” So when you run…run for God. When you go to class, study for God. When you go to work, labor for God. When someone is in need, give like God. When you’ve been mistreated, forgive like God. When someone needs to talk, listen like God. And when someone will listen, share the word of God. "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). On your marks, get set, go!