I’ve been captivated by the Olympic Games over the past couple of weeks. It makes for inspiring viewing. Watching athletes push themselves to the limit – knuckles clenched, faces grimacing, and muscles flexing, as they launch themselves over bars, into water, around cycle tracks and a whole lot more. The competition is fierce, and there’s often only a split-second difference between them. Unfortunately, however, someone has to win and someone has to lose. That’s the nature of sports.
You don’t get to compete at that level without many years of hard training, pain and personal sacrifice. To prepare for an event like this, athletes spend the better part of their lives enduring gruelling daily workouts and strict diets. I’m sure there are many days when they don’t feel like training, but they do it anyway.
But what happens after it’s over? They all go home. The rollercoaster ride of Olympic hysteria and hero-making comes to a screeching halt. For some, the transition is just too much. They suffer what is known as post-Olympic blues. After winning eight golds in Beijing, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps took an emotional dive. He later confessed, “I took some wrong turns and found myself in the darkest place you could ever imagine.” All their training life they are taught they can push through anything, but this is something they can’t simply “push through.” They need help.
When we watch athletes performing extraordinary feats (that we mere mortals could never achieve), they take on a super-human status. We view them as demi-gods, capable of doing anything. But they are not capable of anything. They are frail, imperfect beings who become weary and tired and are subject to sickness, fatigue, and discouragement – just like us.
Why is that human beings keep striving for god-like status? There is only one true God; the One who created all things. He is, as the Scottish hymn writer put it, the “Immortal, Invisible, God-only Wise.” We are simply his creatures – frail, weak, and temporal. We were created to glorify him, not compete with him.
“God knows if you eat from the tree your eyes will be opened and you will be like God,” Genesis 3:5 tells us. That was Satan’s lie to the first man, Adam. The truth is God did intend us to become like him – just not that way. The result was disastrous, as we all know. So God sent a second Adam to rescue us. Jesus is our true super-hero who by his death and resurrection, made a new way. When we put our trust in him, he comes and lives in us and imparts to us the very life of God. He promises to grant to us a new body one day – one that will never wear out and decay.
That has to be better than any Olympian could dream of. And more.