This was going to be Monday’s blog, but I wanted a little more time to think about it. I hope it is thought provoking for you as well. Be sure to check in on Friday for a good laugh as I finish up the Olympic theme with a humorous look at ‘fitness’.

OK, I admit it, I am still giving thought to comments made during the Olympics. My mind is continually drawn back to these in particular: “Are you tired of being a lane filler?”, “You don’t have to be on the podium to have an impact on these games.”, “’Go get your legs’, and that’s all she wanted to hear about a disability.” That last one will sound strange to you if you did not watch the men’s track and field competitions.  But bear with me and you’ll understand.

Let’s take these one by one.

“Are you tired of being a lane filler?” One female runner had been racing for years, and although she made a good run, she rarely won. Her coach asked her if she was tired of being a lane filler. Tired of looking good, but never crossing the finish line first. Tired of just helping to fill the lanes while the best of best won the prize. He was asking her “Do you really want to win?” You would think the answer is obvious. But he knew that as hard as she trained before, she needed to train harder, train differently, and train with discipline if she ever hoped to win. He wanted her to decide what result she wanted in order to decide what happens next.

This concept is found in the Scriptures. The apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 12:24-25a Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run such a way as to get the prize.25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training…”  Paul wants us to realize that in our walk with God we must give it our best effort. We must recognize the need for strict training. We do not learn the deeper truths of Scriptures by light reading, we learn them by studying, contemplating, praying over the Word. We do not learn about serving others by doing it when it is convenient, but rather seeking opportunity and sacrificing in order to meet their needs. We will always be just a lane filler unless we learn to train harder, train differently, and train with discipline. In John 5:6, Jesus asked the crippled man “Do you want to get well?” Are you ready for what that will mean? We want God’s help, but are we ready for what happens next?

“That’s what I trained for” This was Michael Phelps speaking and you may think he was talking about the races he won. Actually, he said this in response to a question about his loss, when he finished in fourth place. Everyone but Michael was surprised by his failure to medal. But he explained that you get the results you train for. Think about it. Teachers have been telling their students this for years! If you want an A, you must prepare for it by truly studying. If you choose not to study hard, then don’t be surprised by the outcome. Phelps said he did not take training for that race seriously, and he got the result he could expect. So what about in your life?  Are you honest with yourself about the effort you are putting in to achieve your goals? Are you complaining about results you should have expected? I know I have had to take a closer look at a few areas of my own life.

“You don’t have to be on the podium to have an impact on these games.” All this talk about winning is meant to push us and challenge us to give our best. But it is not about being in the limelight. Our character before, during, and after the race is even more important than the results themselves. Oscar Pistorius was the shining example of this throughout the Olympics. Oscar is a double amputee. He tells of growing up with his mother and brother. In the morning his mother would say “Get your shoes” to his brother and “Get your legs” to Oscar. And that was the last she wanted to hear of any disability. He was not allowed to use it as an excuse for not enjoying and experiencing life. Now here he was fulfilling a dream, running in the Olympics. Other athletes loved him and admired him. Commentators could barely find the words to describe their reaction to seeing him run. Viewers at home were inspired by his presence at the Olympics and on top of that, apparently Oscar is a nice guy! Whether he won or not, he always greeted the other runners and congratulated them for running well. Everyone was struck by his sheer pleasure of life itself. Which led to the closing comment after Oscar’s final race “You don’t have to be on the podium to have an impact on these games.” What excuses are you using to justify a half-hearted effort at living for Christ? Whether or not things go your way, do you still treat others with respect and courtesy? Would they describe you as ‘a nice man/woman’? Does the effort and perseverance you show inspire others? Are you having an impact (positive) wherever you go?