Text Size: Zoom In

The Olympic Trials

The Olympic trials have gotten under my skin. Love watching the exhilaration of those who win a ticket to Beijing. Hate seeing the disappointment of those who lose a coveted spot on their national team by a few points, an untimely injury, or some other twist of fate. Keep thinking about how much these athletes and their families have sacrificed for a few moments that will either put them into  the international spotlight– or send them back into relative obscurity.

Have also wondered about the kind of pressure that must be on the kids who are being coached by a former Olympian who also happens to be their parent.

Struggling for a limited number of spots on each team. With countless factors that can turn a few moments into the fulfillment of a life long dream– or a nightmare. Can’t figure out whether this is something to celebrate– or just way too much pressure. On the other hand, it bears a haunting resemblance to the life we are all destined to live.

While following the stories of some of the athletes, I’ve been reminded of how competitive life is not only for these Olympic hopefuls, but for all of us. The struggle for limited resources shows up in just about every area of our lives. Applying for a job or a school, supporting a political candidate, building a business, beating the crowd, winning an argument, hunting for a parking place, negotiating a price on a car or a house, these are only the beginning of the countless ways by which we intentionally or unintentionally compete with those around us.

But the ever present reminders that we are living in a competitive world are more than a fact of life. It also can morph into a matter of faith. When winning seems like everything to us, then it’s also possible that whatever we are trying to win has become a god.

The alternative is to use our unavoidable struggle for limited resources as an opportunity to depend on a God of unlimited capacity– to provide for us– whether we win or lose.

Seems to me that nowhere is trust in an unlimited Provider– in an environment of limited resources– better illustrated than in Jesus’ confrontation with the devil in a barren Judaean Wilderness.  According to the 4th chapter of Matthew, the Spirit led Jesus into a place of extreme conditions to be tempted by the devil. After not eating for 40 days,

Satan urges Jesus to prove that he’s the Son of God by using his power to turn stones into bread. If Jesus does it, he takes provision into his own hands, and follows the prompting of Satan, rather than his Father in heaven. In our competitive world that’s probably the equivalent of being tempted to cheat, fudge, and break the rules of the game. It would also be like saying, we deserve whatever we can get– by whatever means– because if we don’t take care of ourselves, who will?

Jesus responds by quoting the Scripture which says, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word (of provision) that comes out of the mouth of God.” Remembering that our real significance, satisfaction, and security come from the mouth of God rather than from our own decisions is the confidence we all need in the competitive heat of temptation.

When it’s clear that Jesus isn’t going to turn rocks into bread,

Satan takes Jesus to a high place, and suggests that he jump to prove his relationship to the Father in heaven. The devil even pulls a quote from the 91st Psalm to suggest that if Jesus really is the Son of God, the Father will send angels to catch him before he hits the ground. The proposition is designed to prompt a physically weakened Jesus to force the hand and timing of his Father’s care.

In our own struggle for a job, an education, or a troubled relationship, that might be like the temptation to declare our faith in such a way as to put God’s reputation on the line to prove, on our terms, and in our time, that he will keep his promises to care for us.

Jesus responds by quoting the Scriptures that say, “It is written, you shall not tempt (or i.e. test) the Lord your God.” He knew that it is not our place to put God to the test– on our terms, and by our sense of time.


Satan makes his ultimate proposition. He takes Jesus to a high mountain, shows him the kingdoms of the world, and tells Jesus that if he will just bow down and worship him (the devil), he will give Jesus the world without a fight.

The implication seems to be that if Jesus would simply let Satan be god for a moment, Jesus could have the whole world without having to complete his mission of suffering. In our competitive world, that is probably like taking money under the table for a contract or to fix the outcome of a game– without realizing that we are really saying something about who our god is in the process.

Jesus responded by quoting the Scriptures (Deuteronomy) a third time. He said, “For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.” Jesus’ refuses to bow to any Provider other than his Father in heaven.

I know this has gotten a little long, but what has happened is that, while getting caught up in the emotion and drama of the Olympic Trials, I’ve heard a faint echo of a far greater competition that we are all involved with– together with our God– every day.

Vote on whether you think this post is something you'll be thinking about:
Vote This Post DownVote This Post Up (+25 rating, 26 votes)

8 Responses to “The Olympic Trials”

  1. Francisco Trevino says:

    Good morining Mart. Another eye opener. God Bless You. As father of teenagers, we spend some weekends on soccer fields watching the games of our childeren. It’s easy to get sucked in the emotions of the game together with the love of our children. Invariably I keep thinking: “How can I help my children make it to the top?” And ideas start pouring about special summer camps, extra training at home, seeking right relationships, etc. Which I think are good ideas, but I’m not starting at the right place. Praying and leaving these struggles in the hands of Jesus and putting God in first place. Then how can the outcome (win or loose) be wrong! Thank you.

  2. drkennyg says:

    Thanks, Mart. I’m reminded of some who think they can make deals with the Lord. Like “if you do this, I’ll do that” kind of thing. If I have the opportunity I remind them that God doesn’t even have to make any deals – He’s got it all anyway so He’s probably not even listening. There is a strong tendency to cheat and think of it wrongly as just getting the competitive edge when in fact simple reliance on God to provide and fair preparation is all that we need. Then win or lose we have done our best and more importantly done what is right.

  3. daisymarygoldr says:

    Not sure if I’m getting what you are trying to communicate today…
    Rather than seeing a resemblance I see a stark contrast-unlike the Olympic trials (nice pics!) that cause immense pressure followed by utter disappointment, trials for a Christian are essential to develop the spiritual character in the hope of eventually becoming Christ-like. The Bible talks about ‘striving for mastery’, ‘contending for the faith’, not by our own strength but by His strength manifested in our weakness.

    Therefore, competitiveness is a God-given gift which we use not for ‘self’ but for ‘His’ glory. “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” (1Cor. 9:25)!

  4. Mart De Haan says:

    daisymarygoldr, I agree with what you are saying. Seems like you are looking what it means to compete, in times of trial, against anything that would rob us of God’s approval and lasting rewards. That’s so important.

    By contrast, I’m focusing on what it means to compete with the kind of confidence in a Provider God that can keep us from doing anxiety-related, “cut-throat,” or “under-handed” things– in an attempt to try to assure that we win at any cost to “fair-play” or the good of others. (Probably just muddied the water even more :-).

  5. daisymarygoldr says:

    Oh-h-h, now I see! Don’t know how I missed the “cut throat” point:( maybe I got sidetracked by the 1st pic (just kidding:) Thanks for clarifying that!

  6. Laurie St.Lyon says:

    Hello Mart,

    Enjoy starting the day with your blog (after my Daily Bread)and I am glad to see someone enjoying the prospect of the olympics. here in London we are saddled with the 2012 games. I say saddled as I have not spoken to one Londoner who wants it!

    I understand your spiritualisation of the games (after all Paul did the same) but to me the the three things that come from the Olympics are:

    1. The wasted years and resources to watch one person run, throw, jump better than another. All for a piece of metal. None of it of lasting value.

    2. That it typifies the “get to the top of the tree” “push on regardless” mentality that you talked about. Rather than the humility,compassion,and charity that should characterise our Christian life.

    3.The hypocrisy of it is staggering.A celebration of mans achievement in sport a reaching across boundaries, for the sake of the (amateur)sport. The reality is its being held in one of the most repressive regimes in the world where preparation have cost thousands their homes, liberty and even life. Not something to celebrate and most of the athletes are “sponsored” full time at a higher rate than I earn. They are professional in all but name.

    Sorry to be a wet blanket but the whole thing leaves me cold.

    So a question that might be better in another blog ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.” Do we worship sport and are christians caught up in it serving another God?

  7. chfranke says:

    An aside to Laurie St.Lyon,
    I, too, find people’s dedication to sports out of balance. There is far too much emphasis on all types of sports in general. To me, I would be embarassed to earn the money Tiger Woods, Bret Farve or the hundreds of other athletes make. From the amateur stand point, one of their eyes is on that piece of metal but the other eye is on the potential fame and fortune that that medal will bring. Having been sports challenged most of my life, I may identify too closely with the loosers and the joy of the competition gets badly tainted.
    But, I can see the positives in the sports world, too. The discipline athletes must take to train themselves is remarkable. Their aim for perfection is noble. Their performance at times can be breathtaking. As a human, it is something I would not want to miss during my lifetime.
    And the whole olympic event gives us a glimpse of a time when we will all come together and lay down our arms to join in fellowship across manmade boundaries on this earth. It’s a baby step toward some future time where repressive regimes melt away and we all come together as one family. Many of the athletes we will be seeing quietly hold these views and praise the Lord for the little part they can play in bringing that about.
    In the end, for me, the pros outweigh the cons and I can thrill in the spectacle of it all.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.