Thoughts on the Olympics — Faith, Focus, Finish

I didn’t want to let those three guys down, or the team down, so I just ran on it. It hurt so bad.

This will be the first of several posts discussing Biblical principles illustrated by events at the London Olympics.  For this first one, I’d like to take a brief look at Manteo Mitchell, who ran half of his race on a broken leg.

Mitchell was running in a 4×400 relay — each runner once around the track, then handing off the baton to the next runner.  He led off, with his three teammates waiting for him.  At the halfway point, he felt his leg snap.

Three days ago I was going up the stairs and I kind of missed one and landed awkwardly. I got treatment and I was fine. I did workouts, and when I warmed up today I felt really well. I felt I could go 44 (seconds)-low. I got out pretty slow, but I picked it up and when I got to the 100-meter mark it felt weird. I was thinking I just didn’t feel right. As soon as I took the first step past the 200-meter mark, I felt it break. I heard it. I even put out a little war cry, but the crowd was so loud you couldn’t hear it. I wanted to just lie down. It felt like somebody literally just snapped my leg in half.

I knew if I finished strong we could still get it (the baton) around. I saw Josh Mance motioning me in for me to hand it off to him, which lifted me. I didn’t want to let those three guys down, or the team down, so I just ran on it. It hurt so bad. I’m pretty amazed that I still split 45 seconds on a broken leg.

I watched the video of him finishing the race, and you can see he’s running a little lop-sided.  (The video is probably only available to UK readers, if you are in another country and have a link for readers in your country, let me know and I’ll add it to the post).  One BBC commentator said, “Hard as nails and tough as teak, take a bow Mr Mitchell.”

Manteo Mitchell had started an organisation for youth in his area to encourage them in school and life.  He had called it, “Faith, Focus, Finish.”

Faith, focus, finish. Faith, focus, finish. That’s the only thing I could say to myself.

Running with Patience

Hebrews 12:1-2

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

We’ll see this verse more than once in this series of posts.  For this one, I’d like to look at that “run with patience” exhortation.  This calls us to a patient endurance, not patiently waiting until difficulties end, but patiently pressing through them to the finish.  Thayer’s Greek Lexicon describes the word for “patience” thus:

the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings

Mitchell provides us an example of that kind of endurance.  Running 200 metres on a broken leg certainly sounds like someone who doesn’t swerve from a “deliberate purpose,” even in a great trial.

I Corinthians 9:25

And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.

His purpose was to help his teammates try to win a gold medal — a temporary reward, not a permanent and eternal one.  Our purpose is to follow Christ.  Which is the higher purpose?  Which should command the greater dedication?  How easily do trials sway us from following Christ?  What does it take to stop you, or get you to swerve aside, from faithfully following your Saviour?  Is the prize of an Olympic medal more valuable than the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus?

Faith, Focus, Finish!

Loving One Another

Hebrews 10:24

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

Philippians 2:4

Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

Who could have blamed Manteo Mitchell if he had quit?  But he pressed on, because he didn’t want to let down his teammates.  No finish, no medal.  They were counting on him.  He got them through, and they qualified for the final.

His effort challenged them to put out their best effort, and despite the fact that their two stars (two of the five fastest men of all time) were out with injuries, despite Mitchell also missing the final, they won silver medals.

How does our example encourage others?  Do we carry our load on our “team”?  Do we leave others to do the work of the ministry?  Do we expect others to carry our share of the financial needs of the ministry?  Do we pray for the people in our church, and do we ever let them know we are praying for them?  Do we leave all of the “exhorting one another” to the pastor, or do we look for opportunities to encourage others as they run the race?

Am I thinking “on the things of others” how I can motivate them to excel in their Christian life, thinking of how I can carry my share of the burdens, or am I letting my own trials stop me?  Do I care about my Christian “team” as much as Manteo Mitchell cared about his team?

You’ve got three guys depending on you, the whole world watching you. You don’t want to let anyone down.

***

This post isn’t really about Monteo Mitchell.  It is about our faithfulness to run the Christian race with patience.  It is about whether we will let anyone down.  But you may be interested to know that he professes to be a Christian.  In a video he prepared in June, he said, “I look to God for everything I do.”  I pray his Christian life, like his Olympic effort, will keep the same kind of focus, the same determination to finish well, the same concern for those depending on him.  And may his example motivate us to pursue that higher prize.

Later posts:
Thoughts on the Olympics — He Wanted to Get Caught
Thoughts on the Olympics — “Not Something We’ve Been Too Concerned About”
Thoughts on the Olympics — The Secret of “Marginal Gains”
Thoughts on the Olympics — The Race Set Before Them

About Jon Gleason

Pastor of Free Baptist Church of Glenrothes
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