Like many people around the world I have watched with great interest the Olympic Games in Rio. Particularly the medal count! It is the talk everywhere I go…Which nation has the most? Will Michael Phelps get another gold? Why are the athletes biting their medals for pictures? For at least a few days it has captured our attention.
The pastor where I am preaching this week took me to visit the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Fort Benning, GA. It is a truly moving place. We walked through exhibit after exhibit highlighting all of the wars in the history of our great country. I was reminded that the sacrifice of many generations seems to mean little to mine. Perhaps because we have paid so little price ourselves for the freedoms we enjoy.
Near the end of our tour I noticed a glass room in the middle of the lobby. As we neared it I could see the faces of soldiers. These were the Medal of Honor recipients from each war. I stood in that place imagining their single lives. Their families. Their service to our nation. Here were true heroes. Great souls.
We congratulate those who have represented the USA well at the Games. It is wonderful to win a medal for running or swimming. Hours of dedication and personal discipline are to be rewarded. Yet in the end the greatest medals are reserved for those who give their lives for others. For a cause greater than themselves.
It is a startling reminder of a spiritual truth. Awards and congratulations are abundant in our society. When all is done the greatest rewards are not given for games but for wars. At the nail pierced feet of Jesus there will be no conversation about earthly competition. Only the things which matter for eternity will be of importance there.
The spiritual war rages on. Those of us privileged to live near the end of the age are positioned at the front lines. The “gates of hell” are closer than ever. This is our moment. When this battle is over no medals will be handed out – only crowns.
“They do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible” (1 Cor. 9:25).
“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).
“Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
Crowns will not be given to those who outran another competitor. Rather, they will be given to those who pleased the Lord. The recipients of those crowns will then cast them back at the feet of the only One who is worthy of them, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (Rev. 4:10).
Enjoy the Olympic Games. Especially honor those who have made the supreme sacrifice for our liberty. And remember that the award ceremony that truly matters is ahead of us. It is unlike any you will ever see on this earth.
Run your race. Fight the good fight of faith. And watch for the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ.