Today marks the 120th anniversary of the first modern Olympic Games. The long-lost tradition of ancient Greece was reborn in Athens 1500 years after being banned by Roman Emperor Theodosius I. At the opening of the Athens Games, King Georgios I of Greece and a crowd of 60,000 spectators welcomed athletes from 13 nations to the international competition.
The first recorded Olympic Games were held at Olympia in the Greek city-state of Elis in 776 B.C., but it is generally accepted that the Olympics were at least 500 years old at that time. The ancient Olympics, held every four years, occurred during a religious festival honoring the Greek god Zeus. In the eighth centery B.C., constestants came from a dozen or more Greek cities, and by the fifth century B.C. from as many as 100 cities from throughout the Greek empire. Initially, Olympic competition was limited to foot races, but later a number of other events were added, including wrestling, boxing, horse and chariot racing, and military competitions.
Against the backdrop of the ancient games, the Apostle Paul had much to say about athletic training as it relates to the Christian life. He wrote to the church of Corinth, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it” (1 Corinthians 9:24). To young Timothy, he said, “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (1 Timothy 2:5). And then he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
In the Christian life, we need to remember to run for the prize, stay within the rules, and finish strong. Notice that Paul says nothing about the start of the race. So wherever you are in the race today, the goal is still within reach. What matters is not where you started, how many hurdles you’ve had to overcome, or how many times you may have stumbled and fallen. What matters is that you are in the race today. So when you have failed, keep running. When you hurt, keep running. When no one is cheering, keep running. When you are tempted to look back, keep running. The end is in sight, the prize is yours for the taking, and the God of the universe is waiting to greet you at the finish line. So keep running.