This article looks at the comparisons between the olympic games and the citizens life.
Throughout the last few weeks the world has looked through the lense of a magnifying glass, to focus upon the Olympic Games celebrated within the United Kingdom. What proved to intrigue us all would be the opening ceremony, introducing the world to a cultural wheel of history and the effects of our times on what once was a landscape known as the green and pleasant land.
The ceremony highlighted how the process of industrialism and urbanisation have radically affected this country, not just politically or socially, but also territorially.
The authorities and governments hoped that inspite of the recession, the Games would unite the people and demonstrate how in the face of unsettling times, the nation could gird its loins and overcome challenges.
In an unusual way the Games would end up being known not for one particular event or outstanding athletic performance, but the contributions of many to make a mark on history. The outcome of the event was as reported to have inspired future generations. No doubt the 2012 Olympics proved to be a memorable Olympics for the British citizen.
In keeping with the Olympic Games, Restore Citizenship starts this quarter with the parallels between the Games and the Kingdom.
Reference scriptures: 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27, Hebrews 12:1,2, John 1:6-7, Matthew 11:9-13, John 1:22,23, Matthew 3:4, John 3:27-30
Paul the Apostle states:
1 Corinthians 9: 24-27 '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. 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. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified'
Hebrews 12:1 'Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us'
Whilst the Olympics is a specific event in history with athletes training for years to compete and to win. The citizen competes in a race that is a lifelong competition aiming to possess the greatest prize in heaven. The imperishable crown!
The motivation for this crown is not accolades, awards, titles, money or power. It is mastery.
Whereby an athlete demonstrates mastery over a particular sport by his/her personal best/time and victory. The Kingdom citizens life race is to demonstrate mastery over sin, the world and the enemy. This mastery only comes by absolute devotion to the King in diverse situations and circumstances.
The citizens life race could be likened to the five thousand metre hurdles, whereby endurance is the key to mastery. Paul the Apostle emphasizes this with the use of his words temperate, disciplined and subjection not of others, but of self. He discloses that whilst preaching to others he could become disqualified if he himself does not remain watchful.
In Hebrews 12:1 we see a great cloud of witnesses.
In this text 'witnesses' are the previous partakers of the advance of the Kingdom under the prophetic trumpet of Christ's herald and charge. They are the previous runners of a very very long relay race. They are citizens who through many trials have handed over the baton to those chosen to run the next leg of the journey.The previous chapter of Hebrews provides an extensive list of citizens recorded for our benefit. People who ran their relay race in the way, the truth and the life afforded by previous covenants. Whilst the particular runner we are going to look at was not in this list, he was however, the final runner of the period before Christ's coming.
Looking at the last OT relay witness - John the Baptist
John 1:6-7 'There was a man sent from God. Whose name was John. The same came for a witness to bear witness of the light, that all men through him might believe, he was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light.'
The text above highlights the final leg of the Old Testament in relation to John the Baptist as the final witness to Christ.
John the Baptist was the last man of the previous order to hand over the baton of the Kingdom to Christ. John as a witness maximised the OT expression as a prophet to men. Christ Himself spoke of John as the highest of the previous order.
Read Matthew 11:9-13
'But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written; Behold I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you. Assuredly, I say unto you among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John'
Christ acknowledges the ministry of John the Baptist, just as those receiving the baton receive from those who have run their leg. Christ also identifies that with each leg the strength of the athlete running increases, not decreases.
From John's relay life we can ascertain key things about:
1. Entering the relay race
2. Enduring the relay race
3. Exiting the relay race
1. Entering the race - receiving the baton
John 1:22,23 'Who are you that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself. I am the voice of the one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.'
John the Baptist identified himself by revelation with the kingdom of God by the prophetic word; this word set him apart as the athlete for his time. He was conscious about what he had received.
The word 'baton' was what John was conscious of and modelled in every aspect of his life. His declaration was the overflow of his being.
Luke 1:80 'So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel'
John the Baptist embodied all the requirements out in the wilderness. In a barren place he learned to live by the authority of the Lord. He was temperate in all things relating to his life.
It was from this place when the day off his manifestation was to take place that he began to cry out. John the Baptist was calling from the place of his abode, speaking from a living place of habitation. Thus his cry was from a living way, thus he declared the way of the Lord. That by him, men would be prepared and ready to meet with their deliverer.
2. Enduring the relay race
Matthew 3:4 'Now John himself was clothed in camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey'
John lived and trained in the conditions stipulated by his authority. Whilst he would have been approached by various classes of society, he lived and grew in the discipline of that identity conceived within him. He had learned to be content, living purely by what God had provided.
Like his forefathers (Moses) John responded to the call on his life and forfeited the perverse conditions of the present generations. (Hebrews 11:24-26)
Many people (athletes) reach the pinnacle of their career and lose the longevity of the career due to the change of lifestyle that the possession affords them (many athletes fail after a success.)
Matthew 3:7 'But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, 'Brood of vipers' Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance'
John the Baptist knew who could join him (allies) in the lifestyle that would embrace the next advance of the Kingdom through repentance. Only those prepared to enter his life 'conditions set through his baptism' could look forward to the next leg.
So strong was the life of John the Baptist that we find his disciples still walking in his ways in the book of Acts (Acts 19:1-7.) So strong was the way prepared that the same results, which came through Christ at Pentecost, came on the disciples in Ephesus (Acts 19:6.) John the Baptist transmitted a life not merely a message. He spoke of a way, a truth and a life that had been embodied in his culture.
Thus this was pre-eminent of what had gone before. Whilst prophets in small measures dramatized what God was speaking to Israel, John embodied this in a living way.
3. Exiting the relay race
Whilst there is a great pressure on us to endure and persevere through the period of our race, we must understand we are joined to a lineage of runners who will go on ahead of us into greater works. We cannot hold on to the work of ministry as owners, but rather stewards until the appointed time of a hand over.
John 3:22,24: Those receiving the baton must pick up the same pace you are taking in order for a successful transmission.
John 3:26: The greatest challenge when finishing your part of the relay is to know that your successes in the Kingdom, are not divorced from the successes of other relay runners in the team. (You cannot reject the handing over the baton because it is a greater work.)
John 3:27 'John answered and said ”A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven'
Just as the captain of the relay team has decided the order of those running, also God has chosen the order and to whom the baton is to be handed.
John 3:28: The one handing over the baton must position himself to effectively support the smooth transition of the launching of the next athlete. The fulfilment comes when you know you have prepared the way for another to launch from.
John 3:30 'He must increase, but I must decrease'
To ensure the smooth transition of the baton the relay runner decreases his pace so as not to interfere with the one now holding the baton and engaged in the race.
We must successfully administer the gospel without interference so as like us, others can fix their eyes on Jesus as the author and finisher of their faith.
2 Timothy 1:2-5: Like the forefathers (Abraham) the Apostle Paul was granted the hope of seeing the results of his faith and work in the lives of future generations. Within the letter he writes to Timothy he records the passing of the baton through three generations to a son whom bears the same qualities as him. A son who he has identified by the laying on of hands, that the race is still ongoing.
As an athlete who finishes his course in a relay, he looks onward and forward watching those down the line complete their part, pushing forward towards the destination, so to the great cloud of witnesses looking on. Those who have partook in the race, with joy and exhilaration encourage us to do the same.
Our race ends with a crown, with a throne. It ends with a mastery that is permanent, an ongoing dominion that never ceases.
For King and for country...