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Going for the Gold

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This past Friday the Olympic games opened in Pyeong Chang Korea, and once again athletes from around the world will put off political differences and national barriers to come and compete to see who is the best in the world.
Of course the ultimate goal will be to win the GOLD MEDAL - an Olympic medal saying that on that day you were the best in the world.
Athletes have sacrificed, trained, competed and been through great lengths to find themselves even competing at this level of competition. Most will leave without the gold, but on another level - achieving a personal best or breaking a world record is also a goal.
As Americans we often remember big names in Olympics like Bruce Jenner or Michael Phelps and special moments as well...
One of my great Olympic memories was in 1980 when the American Hockey Team won the gold. I remember going to KFC after church and then going home and my Mom set up a picnic in the living room on the coffee table (something we did not do to often) and we watched the American team battle the Russians to victory!
In First Corinthians Paul refers to athletes in the Isthmian games where large crowds gathered every 2-3 years to compete - some say a fore runner to the Olympics and others say during their day they were bigger than the Olympic games.
He talked about the competition of athletes and related it our spiritual walk.
Not that as Christians we compete against each other, but we all run in the same race and toward the same prize, and how we run is critical to our crossing the finish line.
One of the challenges I see in this passage are the challenge to always be training and working toward our own personal best is serving Jesus.
1 Corinthians 9:24–27 NLT
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
1 cor 9.

1. Discipline of Training

Olympians don’t sit around eating twinkies, and practicing once a week - they work hard, they train.
They mix:
- Cardio for stamina
They mix cardio for stamina,
- Weights for strength
- Distance for endurance
They discipline their diet to be effect for building muscle and maximizing energy
They hone their skills with repetition to ensure accuracy
Apolo Ohno - America’s most decorated winter Olympian was committed to achieving his goals.
His diet consisted of fish, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables and depending on when he needed a carb load for energy pasta - a strict Mediterranean diet.
He daily was committed to a rigourous workout consisting of:
Stationary Bike Warm Up
Turn-belt resistance training (they developed a seat belt harness that was strapped to his trainer and that wrapped around his waist and he skated with this belt on and his trainer in tow.
Ice training for 40 minutes
Stair workouts (a special effort of not just climbing stairs, but jumping up sideways to build his leg muscles for the intense turns when speed skating)
One mile run cool down
HE DID THIS THREE TIMES A DAY!!!
He was the best at what he did!!! Over and over again!
What are we doing as Christians to bring discipline to our lives to be the best spiritually that we can be?
The Lord wants to develop things like patience, self control, knowledge into our lives so we can be the best Christian possible.
Paul uses this analogy of the athlete to challenge us to discipline ourselves for the course ahead -
Just like an employer seeks out employees who have had specific training, sticktuitiveness - knowledge and passion for what they do -
Shouldn’t we discipline our lives out of passion for who we are in Christ???
Spiritual diet is an important part of that training - if all we feed ourselves is the junk food from this world we will never be fit spiritually.
In addition, we need the MEAT of God’s Word! Not just the milk. We need to chew on and digest the deeper things, not just the fluff.
1 Peter 2:2–3 NLT
Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.
1 peter 2.2
Hebrews 5:12–14 NLT
You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
Hebrews 5:12–13 NLT
You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right.
Hebrews 5:4 NLT
And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was.
We don’t want to be babes in Christ forever needing to be fed only the positives and easy portions of God’s Word, but to grow into maturity. Paul had to tell the Corinthian church these words:
1 Corinthians 3:2 NLT
I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready,
May our diet make us strong to stand for the Lord and to do His will in our lives, to make right choices, and to give us endurance in this race.
May our diet make us strong to stand for the Lord and to do His will in our lives, to make right choices, and to give us endurance in this race.
Likewise training ourselves in the things of God is not something to be ignored. How much time do some give to physical training and bringing these worldly bodies into great fitness and shape - yet neglect their spiritual man
1 Timothy 4:7–8 NLT
Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”
Discipline of making right choices, putting into action what we have studied in the Word of God, not just reading it - but doing it.
An athlete avoids certain behaviors and even places that would tempt them to get off track and becomes focused on the training --- shouldn’t we have the same discipline spiritually?
This is how we train and develop endurance!!!
If there is a specific area in our lives that we see weakness - we need to focus and build up muscle in that area. Seek to develop strength where weakness existed.
Like specific jumps on the stairs, or belt resistance training --- study of God’s Word on topics of weakness in our lives, and then exercising that will help us to mature — spiritual training is effective

2. Purpose

Every athlete has a goal in mind - Olympians it is the gold medal - perhaps if they are so far off from that it is a personal best.
Paul says we compete for an eternal crown. In the day of the Isthmian games they competed for a wreath of greens that withered and died, but not us - our reward is eternal.
We run for a prize!!! We run to WIN!
No one competes without the hope of winning, or desire to win! No one competes without PURPOSE!
Why do we run this spiritual life with no intent of VICTORY???
Would you want to watch a sports game if they guys did not care about winning??? If they had not trained or are willing to put in the energy for victory??
Yet as Christians many are like the kid in the school yard who is forced to play at recess and he goes and hides in the corner of the play yard hoping not to get called on!
matt 25.21-23
Matthew 25:21–23 NLT
“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’ “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’
I want to hear those words when I reach the finish line!!!
I don’t want to get to the finish line and be told I sat out of the race - or ignored preparation, but that I grabbed hold of what the Lord entrusted to me and did something with it!!!
Bonnie Blair, another highly decorated winter athlete said,
“The distance between a person’s dream and their accomplishments can only be measured by their desire.”
Do we desire to win the crown God has in store for us. It does not mean we have to come in first, but we have to finish strong!!!
There is more than just completing the race and making it into heaven, there is also being rewarded for how well we ran!!!
Are we being faithful to use the gifts and talents that God has given us for his glory?
Are we investing in His Kingdom with our time, talents, and treasure?
1 Thessalonians 2:19 NLT
After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you!
Philippians 4:1 NLT
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.
This is not the crown of life, but a crown of reward for serving the Lord faithfully on this earth and putting service for the Kingdom of God ahead of serving our own wants and desires.
Good sportsmanship, benefits of dedication in the training, competing according to the rules...
2 Timothy 2:5 NLT
And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules.
How maddening is it when we hear of athletes that cheat, use steroids and try and win by unfair advantage.
I am not sure if the Patriots will ever hear the end of deflategate until Tom Brady retires!!!
or the Russians be trusted to not cheat!!!
The reality is, when we get to heaven, we want to be considered GOOD AND FAITHFUL --- having run WELL - having SERVED WELLL
Having done something with what God has placed in our hands.
We will be rewarded according to our works:
1 Corinthians 3:13–15 NLT
But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.
Pastors and teachers are coaches to help each of us find the work and run the race that God has in store for us..
Ephesians 4:12 NLT
Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
Hebrews 6:10 NLT
For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.
2 Timothy 3:16–17 NLT
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
There is a prize and reward in heaven for those who are running the race and committed to serving and working for Christ.
v. 26 Paul said I am not shadow boxing (punching the air), but have a purpose in all I do!!
Not just the eternal life, but crowns and rewards for what we invested in this life for that which is eternal.
Works will not save us - that is by faith and God’s grace alone, but works will be rewarded when we reach the end.
RUN THIS RACE WITH A PURPOSE - not just ETERNAL LIFE - BUT BEING USED BY GOD FOR HIS KINGDOM!

3. ENDURANCE

Why do most people give up on athletics, jobs, diets and even serving Christ???
NO ENDURANCE!!!!
Athletic training is about ENDURANCE TRAINING!!!
Keeping on not when it is easy and fun, but when it is difficult and trying!!! That is how we overcome and become a better competitor!!!
Who has not watched a race or sport and watched a weary team or athlete fight to come back and not give up until VICTORY IS ASSURED!!!
Why do you think Apolo Ohno used a resistance belt strapped to another person?
So when he skated in the real race - he was used to carrying such a weight, and now he can fly to victory!
Hebrews 12:2–4 NLT
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.
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.
We are in the race - get rid of the weights!!!!
Matthew 24:13 NLT
But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
2 Timothy 2:10–12 NLT
So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. This is a trustworthy saying: If we die with him, we will also live with him. If we endure hardship, we will reign with him. If we deny him, he will deny us.
Hebrews 10:36 NLT
Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.
Are we determined to ENDURE until the end, until we reach the goal and have fulfilled all God has in store for us?
READ TOUFATOFUA’ story of endurance...
One man would do this to make it to the Winter Olympics ---
What will we do to make it to Heaven???

CONCLUSION

As we watch Olympians go for the gold over the next couple of weeks, I want to challenge you to go for the gold with GOD!!!
Like an athlete does -
DISCIPLINE your spirit man to win
Fix your eyes on the PURPOSE of winning not only the crown of eternal life, but reward in heaven for what is done on earth
ENDURE through all odds until you have reached the goal!
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