The Olympic gold medal. It’s only 3.35 inches (85 mm) in diameter and less than one-third of an inch thick, but about 10,500 men and women from 204 nations will compete in London to claim one of the 302 medallions that symbolize the ultimate success in their fields. Having that award draped around his or her neck will immediately make all the years of grueling, focused training seem worthwhile.
For some winners, the gold medal is a stepping stone or launching platform. The intense media coverage will prominently feature some of the more well-known athletes, but even unknown participants can skyrocket to fame with an upset victory or compelling story. An elite few will be signed to lucrative endorsement contracts that may generate large sums of money for years to come.
Yes, that little piece of gold (actually it’s gold-plated and only 1.34 percent real gold) is one of the most cherished honors in athletics. People spend countless hours in gyms, on the track, and in various sports venues with only one goal — get that gold medal. Many will endure great personal sacrifice, denying themselves even common pleasures while daily pushing their bodies and minds to improve their performance by maybe just one-tenth of a second. I doubt if many of us can even begin to comprehend the incredible amount of determination and pain that is involved in pursuing such a goal. But for the athletes, achieving that ultimate prize drives them on.
We will probably never experience the joy of winning an Olympic gold medal. But we all are still running in one race, and we, too, are running to win a prize. Ours is the race of faith, and we must run without being distracted as we follow the course blazed by Jesus. It is not a sprint or a dash, but a long-distance endurance run. We may get exhausted to the point where we feel like giving up, but we have to keep pushing on. As Paul proclaimed, “This is the only race worth running. I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting–God’s applause!” (2 Timothy 4:7; The Message). He knew that our reward – heaven and an eternity with Jesus – waited at the finish line, and he was determined to complete the course.
There is one important difference between an Olympic race and our race. Of all the competitors who begin an event in London, only one will get the coveted gold medal. The winner receives fame and honor, but the others must deal with defeat and knowing their goal has eluded them. But in our Christian race, it’s not about who finishes first — it’s about who finishes. Everyone who completes the race gets the prize — life’s ultimate reward.
Olympic winners in popular sports like swimming or track and field will be widely acclaimed, while those gold medalists in the more obscure events like trampoline or handball will go unnoticed and be quickly forgotten. But they are all champions, and regardless of what our roles may be in God’s kingdom here on Earth — whether great or small — we will all receive the crown of victory if we keep running to the end. Run hard! Stay focused! Don’t give up! All of heaven is cheering you on, and a reward far, far more valuable than a little 3-inch, gold-plated medallion is just ahead.