I enjoy the Olympics and last week marked the close of the 2012 Olympic Games . There is something exciting about watching all those athletes, who are the best in the world in what they do, gather to compete against one another. The Olympics are a display of man’s competitive spirit at its best and, unfortunately, at its worst. Watching the games reminded me of a book I had been studying in fellowship group, Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges. One of the sins that Bridges discusses is something that I have a particularly difficult time with. Competitiveness. Anyone who has ever played a game or a sport with me, has probably noticed that I tend to be a bit competitive. This can be a problem. I am not trying to suggest that competition is wrong, that competing is wrong, or that we should not always try do our best. Biblically, we are called to strive for excellence, to do our best. The problem that I have is not in the competition, the problem is in my motivation. Whenever I am playing a game, or driving, or barbecuing, or fixing a computer, or telling a story, or eating, or sleeping, or anything – I want to be the best. I want people to know I’m the best. Part of me really wants to hear people say stuff like, “There goes Kenn – the best computer fixing, best barbecuing, best car driving, smartest guy I ever met. I hear he is awesome at taking naps and eating, too.” I want to bask in that glory, and that is a problem.
Reading and discussing Respectable Sins caused me to evaluate three things:
My Motivation (Why am I competing?): I must not seek glory for myself. Each time the bible speaks about “doing our best”, it is tied to doing it for the glory of God and not for our own.
23Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, 24knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
It was refreshing to see that there were those in the Olympics who insisted on giving God the glory for what they were able to accomplish. Gabby Douglas, who won the gold medal in the all-around gymnastics competition said, “I give all the glory to God. It’s kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to him and the blessings fall down on me.”
My Example (What do others see?): If I win—then belittle my competitors (who were also made in the image of God), become haughty and proud, or exhibit any sort of poor sportsmanship during the competition; I set a poor example. It would be far better to lose and set a good example in the process.
Meghan Vogel, a runner in a state championship track meet, displayed just that type of example. When another runner, Arden McMath, collapsed onto the track in front of her, she didn’t run past her. She reached down, helped Arden to her feet, and then carried her the final 20 meters to cross the finish line.
God’s Standards (How do I evaluate success?): I need to remember that God does not measure success by medals won, records broken, or by how many people I can impress. God’s standards are clearly laid out for us in the Bible. Rather than looking to “win”, I should be striving to please God. If I win while in pursuit of God’s pleasure, so be it – but let Him be glorified.
In Chariots of Fire (a true story), Eric Liddell ran and ran faster than anyone else, eventually winning an Olympic gold medal. The medal, however, was not his pursuit. He ran because he felt that to do otherwise would dishonor God. In the movie he says, "I believe that God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure."
17And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
In summary: strive for excellence, compete wholeheartedly and with integrity, win the gold if you have the ability; but do it all for the glory of God and the pursuit of His pleasure.