I love watching the Olympics. I cheer for our country’s athletes, but I marvel at the athleticism, determination, and daring of the athletes of all countries. It’s sort of like watching life up close for two weeks: winning, losing, kindness, cheating, good luck, bad luck, overcoming, falling short, teamwork, selfishness, selflessness, the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and much more.
It’s not uncommon to see athletes openly giving thanks or praying to God for their success, crossing themselves before an event begins, and pointing up to heaven before and after a contest. Some of us like this. Recognizing God at any time is a good thing. Some of us don’t. It’s a sign of religious or Christian arrogance. God doesn’t prefer one athlete or team over another, and besides, there are many more losing athletes who pray for God to help them than winning athletes.
This difference of opinion may have more to do with our obsession with winning and losing than God’s intervention in our lives. It’s a little difficult for me to believe that God takes sides in athletic events of any kind. I’m also not sure that most athletes who display an overt connection with faith or God are asking for victory as much as asking God for help in doing the best they can.
Sometimes, the Olympics remind us of the sports metaphors Paul used in I Corinthians 9:24-27 and II Timothy 4:7. I am reminded of what Paul wrote in I Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” It’s not winning or losing that’s God’s will. It’s rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks “in all circumstances.”
In the meantime, go USA.