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Friday 19th May 2017 | John Blakey
I wonder what Jesus Christ would make of the Olympic Games?
What does he make of Olympic heroes and heroines such as Usain Bolt, Katherine Grainger, Mo Farah and Nikki Adams?
Maybe one way of getting a perspective on this is to think about the story of the greatest Olympian of all time. Who is that?
How many medals has Michael Phelps won? 28 medals in total. 23 golds 3 silver 2 bronze over 4 Olympics.
The crazy thing is that the first 23 medals Michael Phelps won made him successful but did not make him happy. In 2014, Phelps was arrested for drunk driving and admitted to a rehab clinic due to a drug addiction. He says that at this time he considered committing suicide. A man with 23 Olympic medals contemplating suicide – how can that be?
In his own words, ‘I struggled to figure out who I was outside the pool. I was a train wreck. I was like a time bomb, waiting to go off. I had no self-esteem, no self-worth. There were times where I didn’t want to be here. It was not good. I felt lost.”
A man with 23 Olympic medals who had no self-esteem and no self-worth. How can that be?
When Phelps admitted himself into the rehab clinic, his Christian friend and American footballer, Ray Lewis, gave him this famous Christian book – ‘A Purpose Driven Life’ by Rick Warren.
Later Phelps told ESPN news that the book had saved his life because, in his words, ‘it turned me into believing there is a power greater than myself and there is a purpose for me on this planet’.
Maybe this story of Michael Phelps gives us a clue as to what Jesus Christ thinks about the Olympic Games. Jesus said ‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
In other words do not put your sense of self-esteem and self-worth in worldly Olympic medals because if you do this you will not know who you are ‘outside of the pool’.
Jesus said, ‘the last will be first and the first shall be last’. In other words, those who win the gold medals, who are addicted to winning gold medals, may be the last to understand their true value as sons of God.
And Jesus said, ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’
In other words, if Michael Phelps had turned up at the pearly gates in 2014 bent double from the weight of all 23 Olympic medals draped around his neck and said ‘Lord, Lord, did I not win all these medals for my country, was it not a miraculous swimming performance, am I not the greatest Olympian of all time?’ Then maybe Jesus would have replied ‘I never knew you, depart from me, you worker of lawlessness’.
But finally Jesus also said ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you’ in other words, there is nothing evil about Olympic medals, it is the love of Olympic medals, the worship of Olympic medals, that is the source of evil. Michael Phelps found God in 2014 and he still competed in the Rio Olympics and he still won a further five medals. He is the greatest Olympian of all time but more than that he now knows something even more important – that he is, and was, and always will be a perfect child of God. Loved by Jesus not for his medals but for who is underneath those medals. And that is just how Jesus sees you and I also. He does not love you for your medals, for your success, for your looks, for your popularity, for your intelligence. He loves you because he loves you. Because you are you and that is all he needs to know. He loves you exactly as you are.