Phil. 3:14 "14. I press toward the mark."

Only the very best athletes are eligible to participate in the Olympics, and only the winners receive a gold medal. In the Christians' Olympics too, only the winners are decorated with the laurel wreath of victory, but the participants are not the selected best, but are rather the lame and the crippled, the weak and the powerless, people without opportunities. To them God has given His own strength so that "they will run and not get tired, will walk and not become weary" (Is. 40:31). This strength is forgiveness of sins in the name and blood of Jesus. We, the weak, are urged to run our race in God's strength and to follow the example of the victorious athletes: "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win" (1 Cor. 9:24).

In these spiritual Olympics every Christian is urged to win. Our opponents are not other Christians who threaten to take our prize. A prize has been reserved for every Christian. Our opponent is elsewhere, closer to us. It is our own sinful flesh, which tries to prevent us from believing in Jesus. Paul says: "I run in such a way... as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave" (1 Cor. 9:26,27). The original language pictures a prizefighter who jabs himself under the eye and makes his body his own slave. The Apostle was truly a superb fighter in the spiritual sense. He did not permit his Old Adam to win but conquered it. He kept his flesh in subjection with the fist of God's Law. His God?given body could not serve sin, but was the temple of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle had to fight hard against sin so that he would not be rejected.

In like manner we too must confess that we are such great sinners "that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh" (Rom. 7:18). Our Old Adam will not become good by trying to improve it. It must die every day and our new man must rise up in its place. In daily repentance the Christian appropriates the forgiveness of sins and the strength to lead a godly life, granted to him in Baptism. Living a Christian life means daily using the blessings that were given to us in holy Baptism. These blessings are forgiveness of sins, deliverence from death and the devil and eternal salvation. We receive these blessings through faith.

Our final destination encourages us to fight the good fight of faith. "Everyone who competes in the games exercises self?control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we, an imperishable" (1 Cor. 9:25). Everlasting, undisturbed life in heaven awaits Christians. This life is ours already now through faith because of Christ's merit. Now we fight to remain in faith.

Therefore we must be free of everything that would hinder our participation in the race, whether it be false doctrine or some sin that easily besets us, and compete according to the rules. Why don't you also enter these Olympics? The viewing stands are already filled with invited guests, angels and saints who have fallen asleep in the Lord. But there is room on the race track and the supply of gold medals is endless.