Many people, including me, see great parallels between athletics and the spiritual life. To me, the greatest parallel is that both require discipline. The biggest difference, however, is that, while in athletics, one needs discipline in order to achieve something, in the spiritual life, one needs discipline in order to receive something! Of course, we do not earn or achieve grace as if striving to earn or achieve a gold medal. On the other hand, we can most certainly discipline ourselves in order to become more receptive to the grace and salvation that God is offering to us. Without discipline, we run the risk of allowing obstacles to God’s grace to enter into our lives.
By the time many of us begin teaching religious education classes this Fall, the summer Olympics will already be a “distant” memory. However, we can draw upon the enduring images that come out of the Olympics to inspire our young people to put forth their best efforts to seek the prize that is offered to each of us – salvation in Jesus Christ.
“I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” -Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire
“You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape – especially if you’ve got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you’re dinner’s burnt. Maybe you haven’t got a job. So who am I to say, “Believe, have faith,” in the face of life’s realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, “Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me.” If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.” -Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire