Every Olympic event has specific rules by which the athletes are required to adhere to while competing. There are all sorts of regulations, ranging from the type of equipment used, personal conduct, to the use of performance enhancing drugs. If a competitor violates one of those rules they can be disqualified from an event, stripped of any medals won, and even barred from future competition. Winning the gold and wearing the proverbial “crown” as champion of their sport is the goal of every Olympic athlete; however, they must compete according to the rules.
As Christians, each one of us is also required to adhere to certain stipulations if we want that ultimate prize. Several times in Scripture the Apostle Paul relates Christianity with an athletic competition. Two of his statements coincide with the requirements and discipline of the Olympic athlete. He said, “if anyone competes as an athlete, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Tim. 2:5). Regardless of talent and performance, there is no prize rewarded without adhering to the guidelines. In his first letter to the church in Corinth, he said, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable” (9:25).
Those athletes Paul had in mind, and the Olympians of today competed and still do, in order to win their respective prize. Despite the joy and feeling of accomplishment that a gold medal or victory wreath can bring, they do not come close to that “imperishable” prize awarded to the Christian. Paul said that’s why he endured “all things,” meaning discipline and adherence to the rules, in order to “obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10). Earthly awards are temporary, but God’s gift of eternal life will never fade. Not only did Paul “endure all things” for his own gain, but also “for the sake of those who are chosen.” Just like athletes, we as Christians need to have “self-discipline” with regard to the way we live our lives. In addition, we must strive not to violate the rules, which are the commandments of God. As a result, the prize that awaits us is greater than we can even imagine. Let us all compete in a worthy manner!