You know, I want the gold medal that will be awarded to me by my Savior. That's a coveted gold. That's the gold beyond all else.
In 490 BC the Athenians of Greece were fighting the Persians. The battle was fierce on the Plains of Marathon. Finally it was won by the Greeks. At the end a soldier named Pheidippides, ran from the town of Marathon through twisting mountain roads to Athens, a distance of 25 miles to tell the people the good news. He wanted to bring the news to his people so badly that he did not even stop to take off his full suit of armor.
A crowd was waiting. He ran up out of breath and shouted REJOICE, WE CONQUER! Then he collapsed and died from exhaustion. He gave everything he had to run the race with the good news! I believe that we have the best news. Our Marathon is to deliver the gospel of Jesus Christ. We ought to be out spreading it like the leaves of autumn.
We all run in this race of life. God is prepared to make you a winner. In ancient Greece the games were held at Olympia and for hundreds of years only Greek men could compete or attend the games. All runners ran barefoot. In fact before Jesus time they ran bare. Runners ate antelope to run fast. Jumpers ate goat. Just think if they would have eaten those rubbery vegelinks!
Contestants were known for their honesty and integrity. One athlete, KALLIPOS of Athens tried to buy off his opponent. This was found out and a statue with his name on it was erected in his dishonor.
In those days, Winners did not receive gold but a statue of each victor was erected. The winner rode back to his home town in a 4 horse chariot. He could not enter through the city gate. Officials would demolish part of the city wall for him to enter in with shouts of joy and a thunderous applause. Soetimes they would make that hole into a new gate. Whe he entered in there were shouts of joy and a thunderous applause.
When we all get to heaven, just imagine the victory celebration that awaits us. A parade will go right down the golden streets of the New Jerusalem with the saints wearing their glittering crowns. Imagine the singing and the joy. When we go down the streets of the New Jerusalem, that will be our home town. And we'll enter in through the gates. And we'll be wearing glittering crowns given to us by Jesus. An just imagine the singing and the joy when we go in there. Can't you just taste it? I want you to, because that's going to be yours.
As we sat there, up in the nose-bleed section of the Georgia Dome, we could see through our binoculars that JUDGES surrounded each activity. They watched every act. Every athlete started out with a perfect 100. Judges deducted points for imperfect parts of the performance. As Christians we also will someday face the Great Judge.
The Olympic Flame burns over Atlanta. Torches carried that flame over most of America. Where did the Flame come from? It was lit in Olympia, Greece by the light of the very Sun itself. Just so the light of Christians is Jesus Himself.
TERRORISM. The possibility of Spiritual Terrorism is ever present because our adversary the devil is always seeking to make Christians Bomb out. The devil wants you to bomb out. He wants you to get discouraged. Fellow Christians, We live in an awesome and scary time. The winds of change are blowing new and more dangerous waves of destruction and sin over this old world. America has entered a time of great fear.
Before we could enter the Venue to see the gymnastics, our hand bag was searched by guards. They found our umbrellas and our water bottles and the binoculars (they had to look through them to see if they really worked), and the camera, and we had to walk through a metal detector. Very different! There won't be any metal detectors when we enter Heaven's gates! The old terrorist will be gone forever! It can't be long before Jesus comes.
OLYMPIC GAMES ARE NOT LIKE THE CHRISTIAN LIFE: There are contrasts. In Atlanta, the gold is given to the one who merits the best performance. However, obtaining eternal life has nothing to do with our efforts. Our works are the fruit of our relationship with Jesus. It has everything to do with Jesus. We are saved totally by Jesus victory, not by any effort toward works on our part.
Look at Romans the sixth chapter... We're going start looking up some texts now. Romans 6, and I want you to notice the last verse of that chapter. Here's that statement Paul makes about how we are saved. Romans 6:23 The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. The gift of eternal life.
JOHN 17:3 "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."
Romans 5:1 "Being Justified by Faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
That's how we're saved: through Jesus. That's how we get the peace. That's how we get the salvation. Friends, I am personally glad we do not have to obtain eternal life by our spiritual efforts, by our works, because there wouild never be enough. How many would get the gold? How many who have ever lived would get the gold? Very few. Enoch, Elijah, and maybe Moses. Salvation is a free gift that you can receive today by receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior. The works will come. You'll have more works than you ever had before. And I want to be an overcomer, because of Jesus and my love for Him.
Another contrast: Modern Olympic champions who win gold had better not scratch that metal. It is not solid gold. The gold metal is actually silver that has been gold plated. But when we get to Heaven, Jesus is solid all the way through.
I believe the Apostle Paul may have attended one of the Olympic games held every 4 years in his day. Listen to him:
I CORINTHIANS 9:24--- 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. 9:25--- 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.
In a recent NCAA cross country race 123 runners missed a turn. One competitor, Mike Delcavo, stayed on the 10,000 meter course and began waving for fellow runners to follow him. He was only able to convince four others to go with him. Delcavo ran correctly. He made a decision not to follow the crowd. Let us run the race correctly. To finish the race marked out for us by none other than Jesus Himself.
I say we are in a race, not to win gold, but for eternal life. And the way to get that eternal life is to get Jesus into your heart.
PAULS ADVICE: II Timothy 4:6-- "The time has come for my DEPARTURE." The word he uses here is a special word used by sailors. It means to loosen the ropes mooring the ship to the dock. Many times Paul had sailed the deep waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Now he is about to launch into the greatest deep of all. He is setting sail for the safe harbor of eternity's shore.
II TIMOTHY 4:7-8 Paul makes a famous statement: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (8)---"Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing." That prize will be given to us by Jesus Himself.
Paul completed the race. It is so easy to begin and so hard to finish. Many fall out on the final laps. When we come to the end of the road, can we say with Paul, I have kept the faith? How did he do this? II Timothy 4:16-- "But the Lord stood by my side and gave me strength." Paul did not live the perfect life--(Phill 3:12). But Paul gave it all he had.
An Olympic skater (Scott Hamilton) won a gold medal and held it proudly in his hands. Asked why he looked at it so intently, he said: "I am looking at 16 years of my life!" The goal cannot be reached without commitment and dedication. It took a long time to get the gold. Pay day is coming! REVELATION 3:11-- "Hold on so that no one will take your CROWN!" Someday Christians will receive their true reward.
An atheist farmer belittled people who believed in God. He wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper: "I Plow on Sunday, I plant on Sunday, I cultivate and haul in my crops on Sunday. But I never went to church on Sunday. Yet I harvest more bushels per acre than anyone else, even those who fear God and never miss church."
The editor printed the critical letter. At the end he added this remark: "God doesn't always settle His accounts in October". Payday is coming. You hold on.
Just in case you have become discouraged because unjust people are winning all the gold, don't be shortsighted. Psalm 37:1-- "Do not fret because of evil men or be envious..." 37:2--- Like the grass they will soon wither... 37:8B--- Do not fret, it leads only to evil.... 37:9----- For evil men will be cut off but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the earth!"Our reward is coming. After the Olympic games are over and the gold medals are resting on the shelf, only those who know Jesus as their SAVIOR will be able to claim eternal victory! Your reward is coming. Our reward is the real thing!
During the 1995 Christmas holidays, Donald Trump and Marla Maples were in their stretched Limo on a New Jersey highway when flop, bang, one of their tires went flat. The chauffeur did not quite know how to change the tire. So they were stranded. Finally a passing motorist spotted the limo and stopped and offered to help change the tire. This was done.
Before the limo rolled off, the darkened window rolled down and Trump asked what he and his wife could do to repay the favor. "Just sent my wife a bouquet of flowers," the guy said and handed Trump a card with his wife's name and their address on it. Two weeks later a GARGANTUAN bouquet of beautiful flowers arrived at their house with a card on it: "We paid off your home mortgage." Signed-- Marla and Donald. Come to find out that mortgage was over $100,000! A fairly nice Reward for a deed of kindness!
Matthew 10:42---If you give a cup of cold water you will certainly not lose your reward.
Rewards are soon going to be distributed. The prize will be yours. Keep in mind that Jesus already won the prize. He set the record of living a perfect life. Jesus is the olympic chamion. No one has even come close to that perfect record. Jesus died on the old rugged cross almost 2000 years ago. He completely paid for your sins.
All you need to do is believe in Him and accept Him as your Savior and ask Him to forgive your sins and give you a new heart. Then you will be born again and become one of His children forever. The prize will be yours.
HEBREWS 12:1-- "Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Verse 2--Let us fix our eyes on Jesus...!"
In Paul's day the contestants of the races spent many months in training. Day after day they ran to strengthen their muscles. Some strapped a weight around each ankle. Perhaps a bit later they added weight to their wrists and finally around their waist. On the day of the race these weights would be taken off and they would fly over the track.
Every advantage must be had in physical competition. Today the coach says: No smoking, no drinking, no late hours. Fellow Christians: we are in a race for eternity. Allow Jesus to take the weight of some vicious temper or evil habit from you so you can shine for Him. Paul does not say to lay aside a few of the weights but Every weight. Only when we surrender our all to Jesus can we be winners.
We think of Carey Shrug, that gymnist on the vault. She had a sprained ankle, a level three sprain. A terrible sprain. In excruciating pain sheperformed flawlessly and landed on her feet. And then she started to crawl off the mat. The advertizers are going to give her probably several million dollars' worth of contracts. She is an achiever. Is that how we achieve eternal life? Is there any effort to eternal life? Yes, there is. The effort is to stay surrendered to Jesus Christ. We're in a race for eternity. We must allow Jesus to unstrap the weights and take off every thing that impedes us, our viscious temper, our evil habits, ALL of the weights need to come off. And only when we surrender ALL to Jesus can we be winners.
PHILIPPIANS 3:12---Paul says: "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect (Paul wasn't perfect), but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." 13-- "This one thing I do, forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead," 14-- "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heaven ward in Christ Jesus.
Jesus is the GOLD. Go for the Gold. Go for Jesus! Jesus is worth it all.
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last updated 2/3/98 by Bob Beckett.