Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But 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. Philippians 3:12-14 NIV
The Apostle Paul told the Christians in Philippi that he counted everything as loss because of the unsurpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ and having a righteousness through faith in Christ. He wanted to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. How did he prepare for the prize? One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. He kept his focus on the goal despite setbacks, persecution, prison, and a “thorn in the flesh.”
As I join the nations in watching the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in China, I am impressed by the stories of athletes who have gone through trials and setbacks that threatened to keep them from competitions, yet they press on to compete in the Olympics. Allow me share a couple of their stories, and the thoughts I have of how the athletes’ perseverance can also be applied in our Christian race for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
The first thing I noted was the media focus on the past and present failures the athletes had. The world is watching the athletes, and it is watching us, noting failures as well as success. How we deal with our falls will determine how we do in the future.
Our race can be filled with difficulties of all sorts. Some are of our own doing: sin and its accompanying bad choices cause additional problems, pain in relationships, distance between us and God, and sometimes, scandal. When we fall into sin, we need to stop our sin, accept the consequences, and ask Christ’s forgiveness which He freely gives to us.
Other trials may include health issues, separation from others, financial difficulties, fear, or other issues that make the race hard. Many of the Olympian athletes were returning from injuries that could have stopped their quest for the medals even after their injuries healed.
Consider the hardships faced by Team USA’s Elana Meyers Taylor and Kaillie Humphries, both bobsled pilots, four time Olympians and until last week, three time medalists. They spent the first week of their time in Beijing in quarantine. Meyers Taylor tested positive for COVID-19. Humphries was a close contact. That quarantine time impacted their ability to train before their bobsled events, and especially training for the debut of the monobob event. On Meyers Taylor’s first training run back, she finished fifth; and 10th on her second run.[i]
Meyers Taylor and Humphries pressed on through the competition over the following days. Meyers Taylor won silver, Humphries won gold. After their wins, Meyers Taylor shared her feeling about it. “It feels better than gold.” Meyers Taylor said. When she tested positive for COVID-19, she spent a week in isolation away from her husband and almost-two-year-old son, Nico. “This is definitely the most difficult medal I’ve ever earned,” she continued. “It’s definitely been the hardest journey to get here. I am so excited to take this medal back to my son.” [ii]
Some athletes never make it to the Olympics. “Speed skater Erin Jackson, the first Black woman to make the American long track team in 2018 and the number one in the world at 500m, finished third at the U.S. trials in January” after slipping. It knocked her from the Olympic competition —until the selfless act of her friend and teammate Brittany Bowe. “Bowe went on to win the 500m as a result. Having already qualified in her better events, the 1000m and 1500m, Bowe gave up her spot” to her friend.[iii]
We also have fallen, each of us. We don’t deserve the chance of the prize. Our own teammate, Jesus, took our penalty for sin with His death on the cross. His selfless act allows us, through faith, to win the prize of being found in His righteousness and knowing Christ!
Like Paul, our prize is so much greater than a gold, silver, or bronze medal. Let’s keep our focus on the goal.
In Part Two, I’ll share some lessons on overcoming failure shared by Olympians which may be applied in our own lives.
Dear Lord, Thank you for the prize of the unsurpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ and having a righteousness through faith in Christ. Help us keep our focus on You and Your Word. Amen.
[i] KAILLIE HUMPHRIES AND ELANA MEYERS TAYLOR MAKE THEIR DEBUT IN OLYMPIC MONOBOB By Lisa Costantini | Feb. 13, 2022, 1:12 a.m. (ET)
[ii] KAILLIE HUMPHRIES & ELANA MEYERS TAYLOR WIN GOLD & SILVER IN INAUGURAL OLYMPIC MONOBOB By Peggy Shinn | Feb. 14, 2022, 2:46 a.m. (ET)
[iii] Erin Jackson’s gold-medal story, co-written by Brittany Bowe, is “unbelievable”By Shintaro Kano| 13 February 2022 6:57 https://olympics.com/en/news/beijing-speed-skating-women-500-erin-jackson
Photo at top by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com
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Thank you for joining me and for reading my blog. Devotionals post every other Thursday, with past devotionals still available under Devotionals. You may follow my blog and it will be sent to you. Please leave a comment; I’d love to hear from you! ~ Kathryn