Sept. 15, 2023
did you have a chance to see the World Athletics Championships in Budapest? From August 19 to 27, athletes from all over the world showed their skills. I was thrilled to see how well these athletes were competing.
I do not have a stamp from this sports festival. However, I would like to show you an Italian stamp from the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Shown on the left are ancient competitors. On the right are Chinese athletes from former times.
The apostle Paul knew these sporting competitions. To the Christians in Corinth (Greece) he writes about the race and the fist fight. Probably he also knew discus throwing and long jump. For Paul these competitions are an example of faith in God. He writes to his fellow Christians in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:
“Don´t you know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one gets the prize for victory? Therefore, run in such a way as to achieve the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will however not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I wouldn´t have to fear to lose the qualification for the prize.”
During these times, there was no gold medal for the winner, but a victory wreath to be put on someone’s head. The victors were revered to as heroes in their homeland. They were privileged people. But there was only one winner, no second or third place. It was only the victory which counted.
Why does Paul compare faith in God to an athletic competition? Is faith a kind of high-performance sport? Is faith about performance at all? No, Paul was only concerned with bringing the good news of God's love to others. And he did that passionately in word and deed. He passionately proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this he also took upon himself many hardships. This required a lot of discipline. This discipline is what he is talking about when he talks about competing in athletics.
Is there discipline from us required for the faith in Jesus Christ? Yes, I do think so. I want to compare it with a "pentathlon of faith „ in the following five disciplines:
1. Prayer discipline: Do I remain in close conversation with God each day? Do I thank God? Do I pray for other people? For my family, my neighbors, my church? In his letters, Paul repeatedly asks us not to slack off in prayer. God is waiting for us to talk to Him.
2. Relationship discipline: Am I ready to forgive others? Am I ready for reconciliation? What can I do to help repair troubled relationships? Do I make a first step, or do I just wait for others to approach me?
3. Church discipline: Do I cooperate in my church to the best of my ability? Do I enjoy being part of a team that supports and encourages me? Or do I prefer to live my faith all by myself and only as I please?
4. Money discipline: Do I take responsibility for my money? Do I support my church or other Christian ministries and organizations financially so that they can fulfill their tasks?
5. Gift discipline: Do I volunteer in our society and make my knowledge and skills available to the community? Where and how can other people benefit from my skills?
There is always a fight against me. A fight against my comfort, against my selfishness, against my disinterest. I would like to encourage you to take up this fight. Every day is a new chance to practice.
Thank you for listening to me. I invite you to the next devotion with stamps on October 1. Until then, I wish you God's blessings and preservation in spirit, soul, and body through our Lord Jesus Christ.