Like millions around the world, I have planted myself in front of my TV to watch the spectacle that is the Olympic games. What a great excuse for being a couch potato! Life cannot get any better. ;-}
On Sunday, I was entertained by the USA-China basketball game. I was amazed that beach volleyball was played in a downpour. I watched the women cyclists ride cautiously, but aggressively in a driving rainstorm. I was riveted by the Men’s swimming 4X100 freestyle relay when they came from behind to beat the French team.
Technique was certainly a factor in yesterday’s swimming events. USA swimmer Katie Hoff lost her race by .07 seconds because she touched the wall with the palm of her hand rather than reach with her fingertips. Jason Lezak helped the USA win the 4X100 freestyle relay by .08 seconds by drafting the French swimmer Alain Bernard. He allowed Bernard’s wake to carry him along and help him make up ground and then he out-touched Bernard at the wall. These two races were both won and lost by a hairbreadth because of minor techniques.
In an interview with USA swimmer Michael Phelps, he talked about his whole focus being swimming. He eats, sleeps, and swims. It caused me to reflect on how these athletes train for four years for a single event that may last only a few seconds or at best, a few minutes. Incredible focus and commitment.
Watching the Olympics made me realize that rewards should play a greater role in motivating us to grow in our faith. The apostle Paul uses the Olympic games as a backdrop to encourage believers to pursue the goal of spiritual maturity (Philippians 3:12-14). The phrase, “the upward call of God” pictures being summoned to the judge’s stand to receive the victor’s wreath.
I once heard a speaker say that the New Testament describes three methods of motivation for the Christian–Relationship, Punishment, and Rewards. Relationship would be represented by Christ’s statement, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Punishment would be the idea of discipline (Hebrews 12:4-11) or loss of reward (1 Corinthians 3:15). Rewards would include the various crowns mentioned in Scripture (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4). The speaker said that more is said in Scripture about rewards than relationship and punishment combined.
While I have not researched that statement in depth, I suspect it is true. If so, it surprises me that rewards are taught so little in today’s churches. It seems we are so afraid of being perceived as having mixed motives that we don’t talk about rewards at all.
Shouldn’t believers be more motivated to receive the crown of glory than Michael Phelps is to receive 8 gold medals? Shouldn’t we dream of the day when we hear the words from our Savior, “Well done, good and faithful servant” as much as an athlete dreams of being on the medal stand?