The Beijing Olympics: Reflecting on stories and pursuit of excellence


A previous post on this blog talked about general Olympic principles and how it is a way the world looks toward false peace through ultimately globalization with a focus on competitive engagement. In this post, it is worth reveiwing some of the key stories and how it can be applied to life and in particular life in the Kingdom of God. 

    The starting point has to be on the record setting, incredible performances of Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and Yelena Isinbayeva show that some people have just been blessed with talent. They have been gifted and created with skills that allow them to excel.  The Jamacian track team which takes home 11 medals also shows the importance of the natural giftings that make an athlete. However, if they just stopped at their talents, they would not be breaking records or winning gold medals. They have to practice and work and build on what they have been given. It is so easy to sit back and rely on natural strengths and ignore the elements it takes to pursue excellence. The same in life and in the Kingdom of God. We all may have certain giftings, certain things that come easy, or certain gifts given by God. We need to be spending time not just doing what comes easy but building and honing our skills and talents so that we can serve God to our best. 

      There were a few stories that speak of overcoming emotional distractions and staying steady in the midst of distress to reach excellence and the best.  The USA men’s volleyball team coached by Hugh McCutcheon demonstrate this.  Hugh suffered the murder of his father-in-law and the serious injury of his mother-in-law. Yet, he was able to keep his team focused and able to overcome the favored nations and win the Gold.   Another story is of German weight lifter Matthias Steiner, who won a gold medal after his wife died in an automobile accident last year.  Perhaps he was able to simply filter his grief into his goal and it helped him achiece it, but he displayed the ability to overcome great grief and keep focused on the goal.  There are many things in life that can distract us. Many losses, pains, and sufferings can lead us to take the eyes off the prize. Focusing on these things of life can lead to unfruitfullness, it can lead to failure, it can lead to sinking when we were walking on water.  As Christians, the focus needs to be on Yeshua.  Everything else is secondary and can be a distraction.

    In contrast is the story of Angel Matos, the cuban taekwondo who kicked a referree in the face after being disqualified for taking too much time for an injury.  He lost his cool and in turn lost the ability to compete in the future.  We all can do the same thing. We have things fail to go our way and we can explode and lose control.  This is especially true when the goal and dream becomes everything and an idol unto itself. We each need to check and see whether what we are pursuing has taken precedent over serving the Kingdom of God.  We also need to learn to take disappointments and failed expectations and trust God is at work anyway. It is very common when we have failed expectations or even God doesn’t work or intervene how we expect that we can get angry at self and angry at God and act out in ways that dishonor ourself and the Kingdom of God.

The Canadian 8 main row crew won a gold medal and displayed perseverance.  In the last summer olympics they disappointed in their performance and this time around displayed the perseverance needed to achieve the gold medal and redeem from past faltering.  The US men’s basketball team is similar in that they learned from past mistakes and put together a team that worked cohesively rather then simply depending on talent.  These teams showed the ability to learn from the past and make adjustments and do things differently.  Each of us need to take the same approach in our lives. We need to learn from our mistakes and failings. Often times our mistakes and failures end up repeated because we don’t learn from our past mistakes or when face difficulties we give up.  Standing firm and enduring means that no matter what obstacle, even our own failings, we endure, learn and grow. The very nature of the Grace of God allows for this growth process.  Our mistakes, sins and selfishness are dealt with at the Cross.

     Of course there were controversay in the Beijing Olympics as well. The primary controversay was that of Chinese Gymnast He Kexin, who is rumored to be younger then the qualifying age to compete.  Apparently in China, it has been fairly easy to switch dates of birth, resulting in the ability to call this event into question.  There also were two athletes who were found to take shortcuts and were disqualified from their medals: Ara Abrahamian, the bronze medal winning Greco-Roman wrestler from Sweden, and Jong Su Kim, the North Korean shooter who won bronze and silver.  It is tempting to take shortcuts to get what we want or expect. Sometimes you get what you want, and don’t get caught. Sometimes you do. Regardless, there is no honor in winning with shortcuts.  If we take shortcuts in our lives in pursuit of what God puts before us, God is not honored, and ultimately attention gets taken away from the Gospel and onto the shortcut.

     There were of course many other stories, most of them involving loss and defeat.  Some people were there just for the honor of competing in the Olympics with full knowledge of their own limitations.  We need to be aware of our limitations as well. Sometimes we are to follow a path and purse what God puts before us without any grand result. Just simple service, and there is great honor in simple services, just as there is great honor for athletes just competing in the Olympics.

     In summary, the Bible clearly uses the analagoy of altheltics and running the race in order pursue excellence in the Kingdom of God.  We need to focus and not let things of the world distract or disqualify. We need to stay grounded in truth. There is no shortcuts. We each need to be dedicated and regardless use our gifts and talents to the best of our ability, as if we were the Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt in the Kingdom of God all to bring glory to Yeshua.  So with those thoughts in mind take some time to reflect on these four bible verses.

Galatians 2:2 (NIV) I went in response to a revelation and set before them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. But I did this privately to those who seemed to be leaders, for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain. 

 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV) Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  

 Galatians 5:7 (NIV) You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? 

Hebrews 12:1 (NIV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 

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