Joan and I have been watching parts of the Olympics, which will be over at the end of this week. As I listened to the TV commentators, they make it sound like the reason hundreds of athletes from over 100 nations around the world come to compete in the Olympics is to win a medal. Maybe even a gold medal. The assumption seems to be, if this were not so, there would be no point to spending years of constant arduous training.
During the first two days I learned that all of the athletes who were there did, at the very least, get to participate in the qualifying rounds of the various events, but many (maybe most) did not qualify. They would either watch from the sidelines or go home. As the week went on I noted that only a very small percentage of the qualifying athletes, and very few of the nations represented, came anywhere close to winning medals. Most the predictions of the commentators as to who the relatively few medal winners would be were accurate, although there were a few surprises in the form of unexpected wins or losses.
It was about that time when it crossed my mind that, while the participating athletes and their nations might have had visions of winning medals, at the same time most of them must have realized, even before they were chosen to be in the Olympics, that they had little if any hope of winning any medals. So why would so many of them spend so much of their lives constantly training, at great cost of time, money, and effort?
As I listened to the interviews the commentators had with some of the athletes whose hopes for medals were not fulfilled, I heard a common theme in their responses. And that was along the lines of, “I had hoped to win a medal, but what really matters is that I had the honor of representing my country by particpating in the Olympics.” And there was every indication that when they returned home, they would go right back to training for future events. They might never achieve perfection (a medal) in their particular event. But they would do their best to perfect their perseverance to be the best athletes that they could be.
As I was thinking about this, I was reminded that in the Bible, in some of the letters of the apostle Paul, he refers to perseverance in athletes, no matter how difficult their training might be. He uses this as an analogy to the perseverance needed to live the life God created you for. Perseverance in becoming the person God created you to be(Philippians 3). This in turn reminded me how, during the ordination ritual of the United Methodist Chuch, those seeking to be ordained (as I was 19 years ago) are asked a number of questions, including these:
* Are you going on to perfection?
* Do you expect to be made perfect in this life?
* Are you earnestly striving after perfection in love?
The correct response each question is “yes, with God’s help”. I must also add that these questions and this response are not just intended for those becing ordained to be members of the clergy. When God inspired Paul to write about persevering toward perfection in love, the message was for everyone.
The response “yes, with God’s help”, means that I will strive (persevere) toward becoming perfect in terms of loving God and other people, in all times and places, whoever they might be. But I cannot do this on my own. I will persevere at all times, but ultimately I will rely on God to make me perfect in love. To put it another way, my goal in life is to be perfect in persevering in using the ability God has given me (the grace of God)to become the Christ-like person I was created to be. That is, a person who loves as Jesus loved. Which means, even to the point of expressing that love by giving up my life for someone else. When I say I expect to be made perfect in love in this life, I am doing so with the understanding that, while this could happen, it probably will not happen until I take my last breath of life in this world. But until then, I can try, with God’s help, to be perfect in persevering toward Christ-like perfection in love.
I can’t speak for what goes on in the minds of Olympic athletes. However, based on what I have seen and heard, I believe that at some time or other, they all have some vision or even hope of winning medals. But I believe that for most of them, their hope has been simply to experience participation in the Olympics for themselves and their nations. Just being part of it all makes all the time, effort, and money worth while. You might say that for most Olympians, their hopes of winning medals will not be fulfilled. But for all of them, they can expect their their hopes of being made perfect in persevering to be the best athletes that they can be, can be fulfilled.
Like the Olympic athletes, we have a variety of hopes for ourselves as we go through life. Probably most of those hopes will never be fulfilled. Few of us will win any medals. But my experience has been that there are hopes which we can be sure will be fulfilled, if we take the following steps:
* Seek God’s will as to how He wants you to live and what He wants to do with your life. That is, discover what His hopes are for you.
* Listen for and accept His reply. Another way of saying that is to let your hopes be in tune with God’s hopes for you.
* Do your part, using all the resources (God’s grace) that you need to fulfill the hope God gives you toward persevering in becoming the Christ-like person God created you to be. A person persevering in achieving perfection in love. Ultimately, that’s the hope that matters more than any others.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray