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Going for the gold for God (1)

The Olympics are finally here!  As a sports fan, I’ll watch just about anything, but the Games are something special.  Whether it’s the Summer or Winter Games, they take place only once every four years.  (Imagine that with the Super Bowl or World Series!).  Then there’s the fact that the Olympic Games have the longest tradition of any sporting event -- - they started sometime in the eighth century BC.  That would be around the time Homer wrote the Illiad and the Odyssey, and just before some place called Rome was founded.  Basically, all other sporting events are in diapers compared to the Olympics.  Finally, there’s something neat about the whole world coming together for the Games.  Whether it’s Yao Ming, Shawn Johnson, or a lesser known athlete from one of the over two hundred countries represented, everyone has a place at the table.

The Games can teach us some valuable lessons if we’re paying attention.  One thing we can learn is that we cannot be anything we want to be. 

You can be anything you want to be.”  How often have you heard that?  You hear it said a lot and especially at important times --- in graduation speeches, to children and grandchildren at special moments, and in books that occupy the bestseller list.  I’ll be surprised if several athletes don’t say this during the course of the Games.

You see, that’s the thing about the Olympic Games.  The athletes are so highly skilled and well-trained that they make what they do look easy.  Because it looks easy, we can fall into the trap of thinking it is easy.  Before we know it, we're thinking ridiculous, absurd thoughts like, “If I would have actually gone out for track, that could have been  me on the medal stand."  Or, "Maybe if I would have worked a little harder in the swimming pool, Michael Phelps would have some real competition.  After all, it’s mostly about hard work and wanting it badly enough.”  The Games are then used to perpetuate the the myth that we can be anything we want to be – even a gold-medal winning Olympic athlete.     

And that’s nonsense!  If we’re really paying attention to the whole picture (and not just following the cameras which focus on the winners), we’ll notice that only one person or one team gets the gold.  The Games teach us quite clearly that everyone else does not become what they want to be (a gold medal winner), and they have to deal with it.    

Beside the fact that things won’t always turn out the way we want them to, there’s a bigger problem with thinking we can be anything we want to be.   The problem is what the Greeks referred to as hubris.  Hubris is like pride but it covers more territory.  It is to forget our place and think we are something we are not (Romans 12:3).  The Greeks considered it to be a great sin – perhaps the greatest sin.  In fact, in the city of Athens, hubris was a crime.  Odyesseus’ ten year journey home was due to his hubris.  Icarus flew too close to the sun, his wax wings melted and he fell into the sea. 

It is because of hubris that our guidance system doesn’t work well.  Left on our own, we’ll go off in all sorts of self-destructive directions.  About the time of the first Olympic Games, a Jewish prophet named Jeremiah wrote these words:

I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own;
       it is not for man to direct his steps
(10:23).

You can be anything you want to be,” is a counterfeit version of reality.  It is fool’s gold.  It is cubic zirconium.   The real truth is this:   we can be anything God wants us to be! 

After the flood, God told the people to multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1).  They did that for a while, but then a considerable number settled at a place called Shinar and said, “Enough of this!  We’re not going to fill the earth.  We’re stopping right here and we’re making a name for ourselves.”  Their sin was they thought they could be anything they wanted to be.  It was all up to them and about them:  their purpose, their plan, their power, and their prestige.  (You can read Genesis 11 if you don’t remember what happened to them).

Not long after this incident, God called a man named Abraham to follow Him (Genesis 12:1ff).  He obeyed God and God blesed him.  Abraham found something better than being what he wanted to be ---  he became what God wanted him to be.

You may not be able to run one hundred meters in ten seconds or perform amazing acrobatics on a three inch beam.  You may not discover the cure for cancer or be the first person to walk on Mars.  That’s not important.  What’s important is that you be what God wants you to be!
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