Christian Athletes and the Olympics

I recently read an article concerning Olympic athletes who have acknowledged God in their lives. Here are some examples:

“Jesus is my life, and it’s been cool to experience Him through this sport I have a passion for.”

“I often use the word ‘free’ to remind myself that God wants me to live my life and compete on the court free in him.”

“I know I did not get to where I am by myself. Being able to trust my Lord and have faith that whatever happens is His will, gives me the inner peace that makes me ready for anything.”

“I am a Christian. [The] Bible is the most powerful book I’ve ever read in my life.”

“I really believe God is always wanting to speak to me and reveal secrets to me and tell me what I need to be doing.”

“I listen to a lot of Christian music, and reading my Bible calms me down immensely.”

As an adult, . . .recommitted his life to Christ. “It felt so good, it felt so good for me just to realize that there’s something bigger that I need to be focusing on,” he said.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m thrilled that Olympic athletes spoke about God and their faith in a very public forum! There are many Christians who don’t and won’t. At the same time, I think it instructive what they are saying about God and then ask ourselves a couple of questions.

We’ve been told that God:

  • is cool to experience,
  • wants us to live free in Him,
  • helps us succeed and gives inner peace,
  • has a powerful book that, when read, can calm us down,
  • wants to speak to and tell us what to do, and
  • is something bigger we can feel good about.

Are these true statements? I would say yes, after omitting the bit about God wanting to whisper secrets in our ears from one of our examples. Both Christians and non-Christians can relate to their sentiments. The Christian can even relate each one of them to Jesus in some way. The non-Christian? How might he/she receive these short testimonies?

  • There are a lot’s of ‘cool’ things to experience.
  • I’m free already.
  • Isn’t training more important than religion?
  • There are a lot of easier ways to stay calm that read a book! I have my music!
  • I don’t need others telling me what to do.
  • A bigger paycheck would make me feel great!
  • Well, if I’m not sensing ‘cool’ in my life, not feeling successful, or not at peace with my world, I guess I can ‘try’ God.

Do you see where I’m going with this? We’ve been given God as a ‘life enhancement’ tool. Did those who spoke of their God intend to communicate that? I have no idea, and I do not doubt the sincerity of their testimonies. There is however, a much more important reason to embrace God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

The first, and foremost, reason we need to consider God and His Son is because we are sinners who are by nature ‘children of wrath’ (Eph 2). God is however a merciful God and sent his own Son to suffer the wrath and punishment we justly deserve. All those who realize their condition before a holy and just God, call out to God “Have mercy on me, a sinner!” and trust in Christ will have eternal life (John 3:16).

About those testimonies? They all communicate something true about God, as do so many of the testimonies we hear from other sports figures and celebrities.

At the same time I am reminded that if I want to share the gospel message that brings truly abundant life, on God’s terms, I must get to the bottom line, the main thing:

Christ died for our sins.”

1 Corinthians 15:3

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3 responses to “Christian Athletes and the Olympics

    • Eric Liddell had a strong message, but how many even knew of him until ‘Chariots of Fire’? I didn’t. We (Christians) have a tendency to hold up celebrities of all sorts as examples, but examples of what – being successful AND a Christian? How much of their testimonies goes unheard? If they state publically that “Christ died for my sins” it probably wouldn’t make the editor’s cut, at least for most major public media outlets. That’s the ‘offensive’ gospel, and actually missing in a lot of churches these days. So I won’t be harsh toward these young athletes in Olympics, but I’ll pray for a return for a Biblical gospel message to be shouted from the rooftops. Thanks for stopping by!

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