For part 1 of Olympian of Faith, let us look at what specializing does for the athlete and the Christian. Together, we will see that specializing is not just a “nice to do”, but rather a “must do” to become an olympian. I’ll give you 3 quick benefits: Focus, Freedom, and Accelerated Growth.
Did you notice that each of the olympic athletes has their area in which they specialize? The athletes competing in the track and field events are not also the athletes competing in the diving or swimming events. The gymnasts are not playing basketball. The boxing athletes are not also the fencing athletes. This does not mean that these athletes could not enjoy participating in multiple sporting events. They might even be good at multiple sports. However, to operate at an olympic level, these high performing athletes have opted for driving focused dedication to the requirements of the specific sport in which they desire to excel. This level of focus enables athletes to achieve and operate at the highest level possible – an olympian. The athletes are each specialists in their own right and yet they all come together unified as representatives of a larger group or nation. The larger group benefits from the focus of each olympian.
Similarly, within the body of Christ, members have different gifts, yet we are to come together, unified as one body — one team representing Christ and reflecting Christ to others. The body is unified by one faith and one spirit. It is focused when the members have the right focus.
Ephesians 4:4-6 (NLT) — For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all.
Picking an event or specializing like an athlete represents being who God has made you to be rather than trying to be somebody else. While we might admire other people, we were not made to be obsessed with others or try to be a copy of other people. Understand that you specifically matter. We all need for each of us to be running our specific race. We have the power to shake ourselves loose of the comparing and trying to measure up to our distorted perception of somebody else’s race. You can’t do what you are supposed to do to impact the people you are to impact through your event, if you don’t show up.
This should be a freeing thought for us. If you are working on your event and I’m working on mine. We are free to be our best and encourage each other rather than position ourselves as competitors or worse – advisories. Here is what Paul wrote to some fellow believers in the book of Romans:
Romans 1:12 (NLT) — When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.
We were meant to encourage each other and build each other up. We were not meant to be jealous, envious, and coveting the life of our brothers and sisters. Follow Christ and pattern yourself after him. Use what God has given you to play your specific part in this world. God is glorified as we each do our event, being who He created us to be, while cooperating with and encouraging our brothers and sisters.
3) Accelerated Growth
Running to win. There are a number of references in the New Testament that liken our Christian life to running a race. We are encourage to be just as intentional in doing our best as any olympian would be in a race.
Hebrews 12:1 (NLT) — Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.
Notice how this verse speaks of “every weight that slows us down, especially the sin…”. This tells me the weight that can hold us back includes sin but is not only sin. If you are distracted by somebody else’s event, depending on your state of mind, you might not be sinning per se. However, you could be slowing yourself down or holding yourself back because you are not in your own game, not focused on developing your own relationship with God. You can easily wander off course when you are looking in the wrong direction. In 1 Corinthians, we are told to run like we want to win the prize. We are to be intentional in running our race to the end.
1 Corinthians 9:24 (NKJV) — Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
When you lock on to your identity in Christ, develop a love for God, and focus on the calling God has for you — the work for you to accomplish, the lives for you to touch — it enables an acceleration of growth because you are operating with a different focus, being unhindered by the distractions of an event or race that is not yours to run.
Know that you are loved by God, made special by God, gifted by God, given a purpose by God, for a plan created by God. So go do your thing!
Romans 12:8 (NLT) — If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.
Talk about it: What do you do to stay engaged in your own event? Have you been stuck in comparing your event to somebody else?