The pageantry of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony celebrates the competition that brings the world together for a moment in time. It's always full of hopes to be realized and hopes that will be ruined. Nevertheless, there is hope.
For many countries, there are no professional sports leagues like in the United States. For them, these world games represent the highest level of competition, the ultimate challenge. To stand with a Gold medal draped around your neck represents the epitome of excellence.
The fact is, we will all get an "awards ceremony" – sooner or later. At the end of our lives, banners will be raised, our names will be called and we will step onto a platform. The question is will you be facing Jesus?
To discover the answer, you have to ask the most important question in life. What race are you running?
Are you running for a meeting with Jesus? Or are you running a race that will lead you to eternity without him? Without light. Without hope.
When you get to the final ceremony of your life, you will either celebrate with Jesus because you believed in Him, accepted His free gift of grace and love. Or you will feel the sting of regret. There will be no more time for "coulda-shoulda-woulda."
For Olympic athletes, their hope for Gold is played-out on a daily basis with their passion, commitment, loyalty and discipline. Show me your hope, and you'll also show me your discipline. Nobody just wakes up and finds themselves competing at a high level. It takes work. If you hope to compete or win a 10K, you will be disciplined with your training.
Want to win the game of life, hoping for a stage in front of Jesus? Then you'll relate to Paul who wrote in Colossians 1:29 "Toward this goal I also labor, struggling according to his power that powerfully works in me."
Here's a checklist to guide you on your quest for Gold in Heaven:
1. Make the Team – First, you have to appoint God as your life coach. In John 3:16, Jesus explained what is required. "God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life"
If you want to be on the team, pray this prayer:
"Jesus: I know I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I trust and follow you as my Lord and Savior. Guide my life and help me to do your will. Thank you, Amen."
2. Strict Training – Athletes may have physical abilities, but they must train to improve their endurance and technique. The same is true for God's man. You need to make your spiritual health the top goal in your life. Reading the Bible, obtaining good teaching (like on our site), seeking God's presence through prayer and surrounding yourself with other like-minded men.
In I Corinthians 9:24-26, the Bible explains it clearly:
"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. 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. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly…"
3. Play By the Rules – Compete according to the rules or you get disqualified. There's no short cut to the finish line. God's grace is sufficient for your life, but we must strive to know the rules and play within those guidelines.
In 2 Timothy 2:3-6, the Bible explains it this way.
"Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor's crown except by competing according to the rules."
4. Maintain Your Hope – Unlike the Olympics where only a few can be on the team, God welcomes you on His team. But the race is filled with adversity and obstacles that can derail your hope. Hope is an expectation for a dream fulfilled. It is faith; faith in yourself and faith that God's word and promises are true. If you maintain your hope, you will maintain your discipline.
In James 5: 6-8, the Bible suggests how to maintain your hope, comparing the race to being like a farmer.
"Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near."
If you do these things, one day you will be commended for your faithfulness, hard work and patience with the spiritual growth process. In Matthew 25:23, Jesus wraps up a parable teaching about a man who invested his talents and life wisely. These are the words that we want to hear at the end of our race.
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'"
Kenny Luck is the founder of Every Man Ministries and the men's pastor at Saddleback Church. His 20th book – SLEEPING GIANT: No Movement of God without Men of God - is a blueprint for men's ministries, and was released through B&H Publishing. Watch and read more of Kenny's teaching here at EveryManMinistries.com. EXPLORE: "Media Vault" for related resources. Follow Every Man Ministries now on Facebook, Twitter (@everymm,) and YouTube.