I love the Olympics – it really is ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’.

I was fortunate enough to go to London 2012.  I was there on an extremely special day too – Saturday 4th August – ‘Super Saturday’; the day when Jessica Ennis, Mo Farrah and Greg Rutherford all struck gold in the space of 44 minutes! It was been hailed as Britain’s most successful Olympic day ever.

The atmosphere was truly electric. There was eruption after eruption in the Olympic park as each of the British athletes experienced a fairy-tale ending to a Games held on their home soil. It was an incredible experience.

The discipline of an Olympic athlete is something to behold. The years of planning, the hours of training, the strict dieting, the constant gritting of teeth in the chase of the ultimate prize. This unwavering dedication towards a goal is something to be appreciated.

And now we have another Games – Rio 2016 – and the pleasure of watching athletes from all over the world come together and compete against one another for the Gold.

Suddenly, it can all be over in a flash. Some train for 8 years for just 9.58 seconds. So quickly everything that has been worked so unbelievably hard for is over.

But then comes the glory. The praise. The place in history.

The athletes who reach the top of the podium can forever have their name in the history books and are often propelled into a life of stardom and fame.

But glory and crowns fade. Even the most celebrated Olympic athletes will one day be surpassed by new stars. In 50 years’ time Usain Bolt will no longer be the fastest man on the planet and most people will have completely forgotten about ‘Super Saturday’.

There are some crowns that will never fade however.

The prize of the Christian faith is Jesus. Him forever. Being with him forever, knowing him forever and sharing in his glory as children of God.

Paul writes to the Corinthian church explaining that the Christian life is like a race and that we too are in constant training. We train ourselves to love one another like Christ, to learn more about God’s word, to grow in the fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control)[1] and live a life turning from sin.

We are athletes for Christ. We throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles. We run the race with perseverance, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith[2].

And thankfully we are not left to do this by ourselves. Jesus gives us his Holy Spirit to help direct and counsel us, to pick us up and give us what we need in our time of need. And we, just like Olympic athletes, have a team around us – our church family – to help us stay on course, to encourage us and help us through all our training to a reward that will never fade.

We are not left to finish this race on our own strength. Jesus is right there helping us giving us what we need and running for us when we can’t manage it.

Rio 2016 will come and go. Crowns will be won that will eventually fade. Praise the Lord that our prize, our gold medal, will last forever.

[1] Galatians 5:22-23

[1] Hebrews 12:1-2

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.