Usain Bolt gives thanks to God

The Olympic Games have come to an end. The Olympic Cauldron has been extinguished and the Olympic Park is quiet. Athletes have returned to the 200 countries from which they came. The Olympic Games have gone well and have brought joy to many people. Many world and Olympic records have been broken, so fulfilling the Olympic motto, “Faster, higher, stronger.” Soon the Paralympic athletes will amaze us with more outstanding performances and achievements.

London 2012 has shown the amazing abilities of human beings. Every person on earth has been created by God. He knit each of us together in our mother’s womb and made us the people we are. Truly we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Each of us is unique and very precious to God, whether we are great athletes or not. Mo Farah’s elder brother, Faisal, who farms a simple smallholding in Somalia, is as precious to God as Mo, who did so well in winning 2 gold medals.

Amidst the euphoria following London 2012 many people will be given credit. It is striking, therefore, that after his victory in the 200 metres Usain Bolt, the fastest man in history, put a message on Twitter, “I want to thank God for everything he has done for me cause without him none of this would have been possible.” Usain knows that his amazing ability to run is not simply the result of hours of training and hard work but has been given to him by God. As he grows older his ability to run will diminish but his relationship with God and his experience of God’s love in Jesus can grow stronger and deeper.

We do not often see people from so many nations together in one place. One of the great experiences for the athletes is to live together in the Olympic Village. There is keen rivalry and an intense desire to win but also at the Olympic Games lifelong friendships will have been formed which transcend national identity. There is a wonderful vision of heaven in the book of Revelation, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They cried out in a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” Unlike London 2012, the joy of heaven never ends.

Running the race of life

The 30th Olympic Games of the modern era have begun. The Opening Ceremony for London 2012 was spectacular and was watched by more than a billion people around the world. Athletes from more than 200 countries entered the new Olympic Stadium. They have been training for many years and are now hoping to win a medal.

One of the best kept secrets of London 2012 was who would be chosen to light the Olympic Cauldron. The Cauldron is lit at the Opening Ceremony and stays alight until it is extinguished on the final day. For 70 days the Olympic Torch has been carried around the British Isles. Normally a great champion from the host country is chosen to light the Cauldron in recognition of their past success. At London 2012 it was done differently. Steve Redgrave, the great British rower who won 5 Olympic gold medals in successive Games from 1984 to 2000, carried the Olympic Torch into the Stadium. Steve then handed it to 7 teenage athletes, representing the future of British athletics, who lit the copper petals which converged to form the spectacular Olympic Cauldron for London 2012.

When athletes competed in the ancient Greek Games they could see a former great champion sitting at the end of the course watching the race. These great champions from the past were there to inspire the competitors to run their best and to do well. The early Christians were encouraged to think of the Christian life as being like an athletic race in one of those great Games and to see their Saviour, Jesus, as the one who is there to encourage and inspire them.

In the first century many Christians experienced persecution for their faith. Some were executed by Roman Emperors, like Nero. In Hebrews, Chapter12, the writer says, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Each of us has a race marked out for us. Life is often very hard and we may become weary and lose heart. How wonderful it is to know that Jesus, the risen Son of God, is able and willing to help us.