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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Triumph can’t be had without a struggle

                      "Triumph can't be had without a struggle." (Wilma Rudolph)

I, like most of you this past week, have been watching the Olympic Games in London. The athleticism of the athletes, irregardless of their chosen sport, simply amazes me. And the one thing that all of us know is, that it did not come without a lot of hard work and suffering. Without lots of diligence paid towards the goal of being the best in that discipline.

We know that all of them have dedicated themselves to that cause of attaining a gold medal that proclaims them to be Nr. 1 in the world. Like the quote of Wilma Rudolph, reaching the status of "best in the world" doesn't come without lots of struggle.

Probably many of you don't even know who Wilma Rudolph is or what she accomplished during her life in sports, especially the Olympic events. In a moment I'll enlighten you a bit about her and you'll see why I chose to use her story to provide a segue into a spiritual lesson for today.

But first, a few more thoughts regarding the Olympics in general. Last Wednesday night, just prior to Bible study, several of us were discussing the "games" going on in London and I expressed my opinion of some things about them that I didn't care a whole lot for. I'll take a moment and briefly relate those things to you.

Basically, I much prefer to watch events that are judged "objectively" rather than those who are judged "subjectively." Here's why. An event whose winner is determined by "subjective" judging simply means that a panel of human judges voted on how well they performed and awarded them a numerical score based upon that judgment.

Do you think that human biases, or even how they feel at the moment has any bearing on the rendering of their scores? Of course they do. Proof of that can be seen in the various scores given by the panel of judges. They vary in their personal opinions of how the athlete performed. They all watched the same performance and yet, came up with different scores. How come?

No, I much prefer the events where the results are derived from the "objective" manner. IE: the winner can be easily determined because they ran faster, swam faster, jumped higher or lifted more weight than their fellow competitors. If you received the gold medal it's because you crossed the finish line first, thus running faster than every other person in the race. Not hard to know who the fastest runner on two feet is in the world.

And here's another thing about all the athletes that I fully recognize: the superb abilities that they possess regardless of whichever discipline they participate in. I recognize that to reach the physical and mental state of being able to compete against the world's best athletes one has to spend years of practice with great diligence involved to reach that athletic level. That tremendous efforts have been spent towards the goal of being the best.

The Bible says that we'll have tribulations, trials and sufferings "such as are common to man" occur in our lives. (1Cor. 10:13) The question begs, will they deter us from our goal of eternal life in heaven? Our "gold medal," so to speak. Will we have the same dedication, show the same diligence and perseverance to succeed in our soul's endeavor as the Olympic athletes do in attaining their goals?

Wilma gives us a good example of the determination and perseverance it takes to overcome life's tribulations and trials so let's go back to her for a moment. She was a premature baby weighing only 4 ½ pounds at birth and was the 20th of 24 children in the Rudolph family. In her early childhood she suffered through double pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio which caused her to lose the use of her left leg and required her to wear braces on her legs. (Isn't it a wonderful blessing that we don't see children wearing these polio braces any more?)

She hated those braces and was determined to get them off. Think of how much of a struggle it must have been to just walk normally without them. Well, she did get them off and walk without them, but in reality did much, much more.

When she was 16 years old she competed in the Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, winning a bronze medal in a running event. Then in 1960, at the Rome Olympics, she became the first American to win three gold medals in the same Olympics. She was first in the 100 meter race, first in the 200 meter race and anchored the 4x100 relay race to victory. In accomplishing these feats, she broke all three world records for those events and became the "fastest woman in the world."

Yes, she had her struggles, many of them. Did they deter or stop her from attaining her goal? Absolutely not! But, here's where I tie her story into our lesson today. In her own words, she said that she did not accomplish her great victories alone - she had help, the help of her brothers and sisters. Both to keep her from giving up and to help her exercise, but mainly to encourage her to keep striving towards her goals.

Well, we may not be Olympic athletes and we may never set any world records during our lifetimes, but that's not really our goal, is it? Isn't our goal "not of this world?" (John 15:19) Like the example set by Wilma and the other Olympic athletes, we're striving for a goal that's attainable by all men - eternal life with God and Christ in heaven.

The apostle Paul says something I find appropriate to both our spiritual lesson and the Olympic Games. In Phil. 3:13-14 he gives us these words: "Brethren, I focus on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us." (NLT)

And another passage by Paul also relates to Christians and the Olympic athletes. In 2Tim. 2:5 he writes: "Athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules." (NLT) And then a few verses farther down the page (11-12) we find these encouraging words given us: "This is a trustworthy saying: if we die with Him, we will also live with Him. If we endure hardship, we will reign with Him...." But, remember the words about "following the rules?" Paul adds the last half of verse 12 as a warning: "If we deny Him, He will deny us."

                    "Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth

                                            him out of them all." Psa. 34:19

Ron Covey

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