The countdown is on! You might be wondering ‘what countdown?’ In roughly 60 days, athletes from all over the world will come together for the much-anticipated, perhaps controversial, and slightly postponed (thanks COVID) Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. And while there are many discussions going around regarding the wisdom of holding the event in light of the pandemic, let’s focus for a moment on the athletes who’ll be there to compete.

I can only imagine the extensive preparation that must go into training and being ready to compete at an international level.  The degree of self-discipline athletes must have leading up to an event, is just amazing. And how can you not admire their determination and focus? Everything they do is with the end goal in mind – winning.

With their eyes firmly on their goal, athletes are prepared to work hard, to make many sacrifices and to go without. But they must believe it is all worth it, otherwise surely they wouldn’t bother.

Jesus and the Apostle Paul used the image of an athlete training to race, many times when talking about the Christian life. There are many similarities. Just as a sprinter sees the goal and lets nothing distract him, as followers of Christ we are to make Christ our focus. Our goal is to be as much like Christ now in this world and ultimately be made perfectly Christ-like in heaven. Philippians 3:13,14 says “..But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

And just as an athlete knows that some things are counter-productive and even harmful to their training and preparation eg bad foods, laziness, lack of sleep, so it is for Christians. In Hebrew 12:1,2 Paul says “…let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”

1 Corinthians 9:25-27 tells us “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Come the 23rd July to the 8th August, there will be some athletes who are winners. There will also be many, many athletes who fail to win. Either way, the race has been run. It is over.  And one day our race will be done, our life will be over. It is my prayer that when that time comes you and I can say as Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7,8 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Therefore, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.”