As Olympians are currently striving in London to earn medals and get on the platform, I think of all the Christians in the world today who are focused on winning a different kind of medal. St. Paul described this holy pursuit with these words: "I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14)
So then how do the "Olympics of Ministry" define success? How do we know which participants are getting medals from the Lord in their respective event? Well....I will tell you this much....there are far more than just three medals per event....and, the only One on the platform when your event is over is Jesus Christ.
There are many different "events" in Christ's kingdom. All of His followers have been given an opportunity to participate to the glory of God. The "medals" are not given out to the most famous people on the team, but rather, to the most faithful. You see....in the "Olympics of Ministry," it's not about how many people on earth applaud your work....it's about the applause of heaven....and the approval of the King.
Some of the most celebrated Christians on earth may not even make it into the "medal rounds" so to speak. There are famous believers who are performing far below their potential....and in some cases, with wrong motives. Hence, they fail to qualify for any type of "medal" or award. The world views them as successful based on their popularity and charm, but that doesn't necessarily mean God views them the same way.
The curious thing about the "Olympics of Ministry" is this....those who actually make it into the "medal rounds" are often Christians that the world and even the church tends to overlook....they are often practically "invisible" as they go about their service for the King. Some of them reach a lot of people for Christ, but most of them are reaching a smaller number of people....but doing so in a faithful and humble manner. Say, for example, the way that our Lord spent most of His time on earth with only 12 disciples. The King made it clear that faithfulness to our Father in heaven is the goal....not "success" in the eyes of man.
The world thinks that a Christian is successful if he becomes rich and famous. Heaven defines success as remaining faithful to Christ and His Word in spite of persecution and suffering. The world defines success based on numbers. Heaven defines success based on authentic discipleship and spiritual maturity. There are human judges for the events in London, whereas God is the only Judge for the "Olympics of Ministry."
To run with this analogy a little further, every believer in Jesus Christ is an "Olympian." We have been brought to the "games" by the grace of God and we have all been gifted in some way to serve Him and others. We are competing on the winning team. Our King wants us to do our best with what He has given us. It matters not how the world judges our efforts. We ultimately play for an audience of One.
The Olympians in London have been given thousands of condoms in hopes of protecting them from sexually transmitted diseases while at the games. The "Olympians" in ministry have been given a different kind of protection. We have had our sins covered by the blood of Christ through faith in the Savior. This protects us from the penalty of sin which is handed down to those whose sins are not covered when they die. The world promotes the idea of "safe sex." The Bible promotes "safe religion" by leading people to the one place where their sins are washed away, namely, the cross where Christ died to pay for our sins.
Many of the Olympians in London seem to bask in their own glory. In ministry, the most faithful participants are those who bask only in the Lord's glory....and not their own. Much of the focus in London is on the personal achievement of the athletes. On God's team, the focus is on the King and on His message which is delivered to the world by Christ's "Olympians."
Those who wear medals in London do so proudly because of their personal achievement. Any "Olympian of Ministry" who receives "medals" from our Lord at the end of the "games" will be very quick to lay those crowns at the Master's feet. In fact, the only members of God's team who are eligible to receive "medals" are those who do not want any glory for themselves. Selfish ambition disqualifies a believer from receiving a "medal" upon his entrance into heaven. (see 1 Cor. 3:10-15)
One area of common ground is in the area of training. Olympians in London have trained extremely hard to get there. Christians who reach the "medal rounds" are those who focus intently on living for Christ every hour of everyday. This requires the discipline of an "Olympian." When we fall down, God lifts us back up and we press on toward the goal to win the prize.
As Christians, you and I are not ever to compete against one another. That motive stems from selfish ambition. Instead, we are to work together to help advance the cause of our King. If we are more interested in promoting ourself or our church or our denomination, how is that being faithful to the Lord? God doesn't want the members of His team building "little empires" for themselves. He wants us building up His one kingdom which has no end.
The "Olympics of Ministry" take place in the most significant arena in the entire universe. It is here that people are coming to know the King who will bring them into His eternal kingdom. It is here that our efforts have eternal significance for our souls and the souls of those we serve. This is why we as believers seek to be in excellent spiritual condition. "Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come." (1 Timothy 4:8)
The Olympics in London have some significance....but the "Olympics of Ministry" are a million times more momentous. "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." (1 Cor. 9:25)
How focused and faithful are you as a Christian in those events where God has chosen you to carry His flag, represent His name, and advance His kingdom? Your event isn't over yet Christian. There are still medals (and souls) to be won for His glory. Just always remember how God defines "success" as you "press on toward the goal to win the prize." (Philippians 3:14)