The Olympic Games is a major international event in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions from around 200 nations. The Games are held every four years but since there are summer and winter Olympics you only have to wait two years to enjoy them. And how enjoyable they are! From opening to closing ceremony there is the thrill of competition. The Games are also addicting. You tell yourself to not get so involved but you can’t help it. You stay up late or get up early because you are following a particular event or athlete. And all this goes on for about two and a half weeks!
The ancient Olympic Games were held in Olympia, Greece, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. The games featured running events, a pentathlon (consisting of a jumping event, discus and javelin throws, a foot race, and wrestling), boxing, wrestling, pankration (a type of martial art), and equestrian events. The Olympic Games reached their height in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, but then gradually suffered decline as the Romans gained power and influence in Greece.
Greek interest in reviving the Olympic Games began with the Greek War of Independence in 1821 and the first modern Olympic games were then held in 1859 in an Athens city square. Later the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was formed and in 1896 the Games were held in Athens. This was followed by the formation of the Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
The apostle Paul talked about sports in his writings. The Corinthians had their own Isthmian Games named after the isthmus in Corinth, which was southwest of the city of Athens. The Isthmian Games were held both the year before and the year after the Olympic Games. The winners received a wreath of celery and later it was changed to pine leaves. It was common for victors to be honored with a statue or have an ode written about them.
Listen to the apostle Paul: Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Cor 9:24-27)
Notice how Paul compares the Christian life to a race and also to boxing. He said there is a reward ahead and we are to be disciplined in our lives so that we may win that prize and not be disqualified. There is no guarantee for an Olympic athlete to win a gold, silver, or bronze medal. But a true disciple of Christ can be assured that what lies ahead is worth the rigor of training through tribulation: (Mat 25:21) . . . ‘Well done, good and faithful servant . . . ”