As the Olympics are on I am struck once again with the cost of success. Incredible discipline and perseverance over time in preparation for the opportunity to be medalled noted as the greatest in their field at this point in history. Unsurprisingly St Paul used athletic metaphors several times in his writings as he considered life as a missional disciple of Jesus.
Paul would have known of the Olympic Games, which took place every four years at the centre of Greece; but he would have been even more familiar with the Isthmian Games. This took place every other year, and was second in importance only to the Olympics, and it happened near Corinth. So Paul would have recognised much of the feverish atmosphere that surrounds Rio: the preparations of the city, the training of the athletes, the political and economic implications for the hosting city; it’s even possible he made tents for the athlete’s village!
He wrote to the church in Corinth chapter 9
‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.’
He was intentional about being a disciple and persevering in spiritual disciplines. We can learn from him in this.