If you are among the billions (literally, billions) of people around the world who will watch at least some of the Olympics over the next two weeks, here are some biblical perspectives worth contemplating—and maybe sharing with other people.
1. Athletic competitions are an opportunity for us to contemplate the meaning of perseverance in life. The Apostle Paul (who would have known the reputation of the ancient Olympic games) said: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race” (2 Tim. 4:6-8). And “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.” Every athlete competing at the Olympic level needs to persevere, not for a few days, but through years of training. Faith is for one’s whole life.
2. The nations of the world are an amazing spectacle, but they are like a drop in a bucket to God. The nations of the world sometimes gather in goodwill athletic competition, but sometimes they war against each other. God’s sovereignty and grace is what gives us hope. As Isaiah put it:
Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are regarded as dust on the scales;
he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
(Isaiah 40:15, 21-22).
So the Olympics are an opportunity to learn about this amazing world in which we live and the incredible range of human experiences, but they are also an opportunity to think of the greatness of God who is Lord over the nations.
3. By God’s grace, everyone can win in faith. That may sound like a cheap slogan, but it is true. In the Olympics we see competitors who have spent their lives preparing for the big event, and may be shattered if they only get a bronze medal rather than gold. From God’s perspective any man or woman, boy or girl, who gains forgiveness through faith in Christ and who lives in the light of that faith, is a victor. It is not about comparing yourself to someone else (which in the realm of faith always makes us losers). You look to Jesus, run the race, worship the King and serve other people, and then celebrate that God has allowed you to be part of the greatest global spectacle there ever has been.