|By: Dr. John G. Weldon; ©2012|
|The London 2012 Olympic Games are underway and it seems the whole world is thrilled. Anything can happen—that's part of the wonder and excitement.|
The London 2012 Olympic Games are underway and it seems the whole world is thrilled. With a spectacular "Isles of wonder" $35 million opening on Friday, described as "spectacular, breathtaking and pure magic, the greatest show on earth." 10,000 athletes, some 500 events, 26 separate sports and potentially one billion-plus delighted spectators, are all geared up for the unparalleled physical endurance extravaganza. It seems like everyone is there – Queen Elizabeth II, America's First Lady, Muhamed Ali, presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and over 120 world leaders.
American swimmer Michael Phelps took an unbelievable eight gold medals at Beijing in 2008. Almost everyone wants to learn if he will become the greatest Olympian ever in terms of total medals won during the Olympic Games. But in addition to swimming, other events include basketball, hockey, the Pentathlon, wrestling, boxing, weightlifting, mountain biking, gymnastics, track, water polo, and tennis—just some of the sports spectaculars.
Olympians train daily for hours upon end, for about 20 years, more vigorously than people can imagine, all in order to compete for just a few short minutes with every quantum ounce of strength they can muster. It is a glorious undertaking. I once enjoyed a hint of it.
Anything can happen—that's part of the wonder and excitement. Again, back in the 2008 Olympic Games, Phelps took an unprecedented and unbelievable eight gold medals, making Olympic history, beating even Mark Spitz’ unparalleled seven gold medals at the 1972 Olympics. Prior to the current games Phelps holds an Olympic record,14 gold medals plus 16 total, more than any other athlete in any two Olympic games. If Phelps wins a gold medal, he could become the first swimmer to win the same event at three straight Olympics -- and, being two medals short at the time of this writing, he could even beat gymnast Latynina’s all-time record of 18 total medals. However and whatever medals he wins this time, he just might be impossible to beat again. Phelps victory might not be repeated in the next century if ever -- but anything can happen in any Olympic game and that's part of the thrill. Phelps could even flop; its part of being human. In the Olympics we find both stunning victories and heart-rending tragedies.
For example, in the 2008 Olympics, evangelical Christian and Hawaiian-born Bryan Clay became "the world's greatest athlete" as the decathlon gold medal winner (he was also the World Champion decathlon winner in 2005) – and yet, reminiscent of David and Goliath, he was the smallest decathlete in the entire history of the Olympic games. Yet he won Decathlon Gold by a remarkable 240 point victory over his nearest competitor, the largest point spread in half a century. As the reigning Olympic and world champion for the decathlon he wrote the book Redemption: A Rebellious Spirit, a Praying Mother, and the Unlikely Path to Olympic Gold, giving the glory to Jesus.
The Olympics are intended to represent world peace and unity, something this tired old planet can use just now. Given Syria's concurrent movement of WMD, Iran's development of nuclear weapons to use against Israel and the West and the incredibly intertwined and complex competing interests of Russia, the US, China, Saudi Arabia and other nations, drama on the world scene is no less powerful than at the golden gates of London. In fact, world events are such that there is probably more interest in biblical prophecy as it relates to the predicted "last days of Israel" than at any other time in history.
Nevertheless, when the games are over if Michael Phelps has the most medals in Olympic history, as someone said, he will "be in every conversation about the greatest athletes of all time."
That would be an incredibly select club – just a handful of people out of hundreds of billions who have lived on this planet. Regardless, the chances are fair to good for something stunning.
But here's the real question that the Olympic games bring up – as unparalleled or spectacular an achievement as this may be, what about 20 years later, or 40 years later, or 60 years later? How will the greatest Olympic gold-medal winner in world history feel about his or her prizes on their deathbed? Can the medals be taken with them? As Jesus said, "And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?" (Matthew 16:26).
The apostle Paul was a former skeptic and persecutor of the Christian church who became a spiritual "Zeus" of sorts. His missionary journeys impacted perhaps 18 billion people and changed the Western world, writing over one fourth of the New Testament. In the Bible, the amazing apostle spoke of the ancient Olympic Games when he wrote, "Everyone 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" (1 Corinthians 9:25, emphasis added).
The greatest thing this world can possibly offer, theoretically, is the world itself, which, even if secured would only be in one's possession for a short time -- and yet all of it is less than nothing compared to saving one's soul, inheriting eternal life and living forever.
And not just living forever in some boring celestial caricature of Heaven but in the most loving, joyous, thrilling and beautiful place an infinite God could create, where boredom is impossible by definition and where there are always new things to learn and do and enjoy and marvel at and create. Far better than the glorious environment itself, one would be living forever with the greatest Treasure and the most Beautiful and Glorious Person in the universe -- God Himself -- an infinite Being of never-ending wonders and perfection. An infinite Being who loves you and wants to make you the happiest person conceivable – who, for all eternity would make you joyful beyond measure.
And this is no fairytale; plus it is something achieved infinitely easier than what Olympic athletes must endure merely to enter the games. But there’s one slight catch -- it can be done only on God’s terms. He does have one single and simple condition, related to the unfathomable price it personally cost Him to redeem us.
We must come to God through personal faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Savior (John 3:16). As Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me" (John 14:6) because, "There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12 NLT) "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). Among all the world's religious founders, leaders, "saviors" and prophets, only One ever claimed to die for our sins to bring us to God and only One offers salvation as an utterly free gift simply for believing in what God has done in Jesus Christ (John 3:36 5:24; 6:47; 1 John 5:13). What the great Protestant reformer Martin Luther said is actually true: in the end there are only two religions in the world -- the religion of works and the religion of grace.
Only one Person in all human history has fulfilled scores of specific prophecies about Him, written hundreds and hundreds of years advance of his coming; engaged in scores and probably hundreds (John 21:25) of unparalleled supernatural miracles in space-time history as proof of His claims, and then raised Himself from the dead in absolute proof of His claim to be God incarnate -- and also as proof that our sins are truly and eternally forgiven through faith in Him: "He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification" (Romans 4:25; “justification” means that God legally declares the believer in Christ as righteous as Christ is righteous; all sins are forgiven and Christ’s perfect righteousness is credited to our account forever, Cf. Colossians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 1:17; 3:25; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 John 3:5).
It doesn't matter who we are, -- or where we are, -- or what our circumstances: wonderful, average, or horrible; or how great our sins and debilitating our guilt. God still loves us more than we can possibly know or imagine, far more than this (Ephesians 3:19) – that's why He sent His Son to die for our sins at an unbelievable cost to Himself and His Son – and even better, He wants us to spend forever with Him in Heaven in an infinite universe so glorious that the best superlatives of this life do not even comprise dim shadows of that reality, a reality that will never end but only increase in inexpressible love, peace, joy, knowledge, excitement and everything good forever and ever. Even the worst sufferings in this life are nothing "compared to the glory that will soon be revealed to us." (Romans 8:!8,God's Word) “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2Corinthians 2:17).” “However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.’" (1 Corinthians 2:9) “… in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psalm 16:11 ESV).
The biblical God Himself – by definition -- is the greatest Treasure and Person in the universe – He alone is God because no other deity ever conceptualized by man can be a true, genuine God -- whatever the cost, don't let anything ever get in the way of giving your life to Him.
Marion Jones, a world champion track and field athlete and WNBA professional basketball player had to surrender her five medals from the 2000 Summer Olympics, three gold and two bronze. She recently recalled during her difficult solitary confinement in prison that "I was at a place where I thought hope was gone." “Hope was gone” is especially hard when things could have been so bright. We'll never know, but like Phelps as swimmer, she could have been the greatest woman runner ever. Still, God is never in a box and He can turn even something bad or evil into something good; He does it all the time.
In Jones’ words she considered that "sometimes God puts you in situations where there's nothing else: you have to turn to him." That's just what happened in a very dark place, what's often conceded as the worst female prison in America, where she was in solitary. Was her time in the worst women's prison in the nation worth it? Illustrating Romans 8:28, here's her answer: "Absolutely. Absolutely. I say it all the time. I wouldn't wish it on my enemy, but actually I would if it would change their life in such a positive way." Even worldwide disgrace and the worst imprisonment isn't beyond God's reach – nothing is. Marion Jones may have lost her five Olympic medals, but she gained eternal life. Who can compare the two? Whatever her mistakes or sins, with God's grace she overcame them and dedicated her life to Christ while in prison, later writing: On the Right Track: From Olympic Downfall to Finding Forgiveness and the Strength to Overcome and Succeed. She also began the “Take a Break” organization to give back to society and help anyone interested to live a better life and to avoid mistakes that carry too big a price tag.
But the biggest price tag of all would be to miss out on the One who loves us more than anything.
Just imagine if your now almost perfect husband or wife were a thousand times better than they are, in every good and excellent way. Or what it would be like to spend your life with that one person you adore, the one who you admire the most, the one who enthralls you more than any other and excites you the most – whether it is the most talented and beautiful man or woman in the world, or George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, Pope John Paul II, Mohammed Ali, Constantine, Muhammed, Oprah Winfrey, Mick Jagger or Bono – imagine the single person in the world or world history that you would most like to be your closest friend and ally who you would like to love you more than anyone else, the one whom you could always trust no matter what.
Now take the best qualities of that person and multiply them times a thousand, or million -- even to an infinite degree. Imagine what it would be like to spend not just a lifetime but literally forever – all eternity – with such an infinite Person who is perfect in every way, who loves you beyond measure, who will resurrect you with a mind and body of unbelievable glory capable of such joyous rapture that were you to experience it now the sheer pleasure itself would cause instant death. Imagine spending all eternity with an infinitely glorious Being who "is love" (1 John 4:8, 16) and goodness, and just, and truth and joy and peace, who is all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere present and who never changes. If He gave His own Son -- at, literally, an infinitely terrible price -- that He might graciously give us eternal life as a completely free gift, then just imagine the eternal treasures He has in store for us – really, just try and imagine it. (The most imaginative person on earth with the highest IQ couldn't even imagine 6 feet toward the infinity of such riches and blessings.)
Now imagine what it would be to miss out on those treasures forever just because for our whole life we spurned the gracious offer of God’s salvation. Worse, imagine missing out on God Himself. If an eternally perfected universe of love and happiness and joy is grand, God Himself by definition is infinitely grander. This is the One who “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
Imagine the God who loves you now, the God who desires that "none should perish" becoming a God who is forced to judge your sins in accordance with His infinite holiness. Consider that in the infinitely complex mind of God He can both love you in this life and at death require the payment of your sins forever because you have spurned His love. After all, the severity of a sin is measured by the stature of the one sinned against – a white lie to our spouse is hardly the same as murdering the president of the United States. Once God enters the picture, every sin committed becomes an “infinite” offense. Sinning against an infinite God requires an infinite punishment that for finite creatures can only be eternal punishment. God paid an infinite price to redeem us and offer us the free gift of salvation. Given this fact, "How much more severe a punishment do you think that person deserves who tramples on God's Son"? (Hebrews 10:29)
Imagine what it would be like to encounter God's wrath forever; after all, in this sense, given the cost of Calvary, God’s wrath is nothing more than outraged love. Then there's the fact that we have to pay for our own sins forever, down to the last one, since we won't allow Christ to pay for them for us.
In the Olympic Games, there's little worse than spending a lifetime of relentlessly grueling workouts only to come in fourth in your event, losing by 1/100 of a second, and receiving nothing permanent for all your efforts. But this sadness cannot compare with the potential of missing eternity with Christ forever.
But why risk it? Why not let the words of Jesus sink deep into your soul and act accordingly:
I mentioned earlier that coming to Jesus is the easiest thing in the world – God is right there next to you, right this moment; He knows all about you and always has for all eternity; just open your heart to Him, being honest about your sins and trusting that what He says is true.
As C.S. Lewis said in his often cited remark, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'”
In other words, there are winners and there are losers. Why be a loser? Why not be a winner, receiving a prize infinitely superior to that of all the Olympic gold winners wrapped up together, infinitely greater than the whole world itself? Why not indeed. This is the unending joy of truly winning: knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior now and forever.
For more information on becoming a Christian, please see the homepage of JAshow.org.