As we read and follow events about the upcoming Olympic games we realize that not all of the drama takes place during the actual Olympics. Some of it unfolds in the weeks and months leading up to the games as competitors vie for qualification. A Canadian diver hit his head while training. Will he be able to compete in the event during the Olympics? The Olympic torch is something else that is symbolic of the games. Traditionally the torch is carried over thousands of kilometers and only one can be lit at any given moment until the “pure flame” is finally carried into the opening ceremonies to light the official torch. This year it is a journey of many kilometers but one person does not do it all. It is passed from person to person to complete the distance.
While I was contemplating this I began to wonder about just how many athletes do compete in the Games. I found that there were 2,566 athletes in the 2010 Winter Olympics (0.00000004% of the world’s population) and approx. 18,000 athletes will compete in the 2012 Summer Olympics (0.000003% of the world’s population). Since the inception of the modern games in 1901 there have been just 26,513 medalists. I do not know about you but this makes me realize just how hard it is to be an Olympian.
These are just a few fun and revealing facts but I also started to think about Paul as he makes several references to being an athlete and torch bearer. As he writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:12 he says, “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” Paul is getting to the point that he cannot carry the “torch” much further. He turns to this dedicated young man and says, “It is in your hands now. Take good care of it.” Paul also realizes that many torch bearers are going to be needed to keep the torch moving (2 Timothy 2:2). He is saying get some more people ready to carry the torch of Jesus into more darkened lives. It is a great privilege to be one of the people who is considered worthy to carry the Olympic torch. It is a much greater privilege to be considered worthy to carry the torch of Jesus, and you have been.
We are not only torch bearers but also athletes. Athletes at the Olympic games are considered ambassadors of their country. God says in 2 Corinthians, “We are Christ’s ambassadors”. This great message of what Jesus did on the cross for us has been carried this far by other people, some of whom paid in blood to make sure that torch never flickered. Now it has come to us. In our inner circle, in the area where we live and work, the carrying of the torch is up to us. Those who have carried the torch through almost 20 centuries would say to us, as Paul was saying to Timothy, “Guard the deposit, don’t drop this torch, don’t mess up morally or spiritually, don’t give up, even when it hurts to keep running. ‘Hold it high! Don’t be ashamed of the Name and the love of Jesus! Tell the people on your leg of the journey about Jesus and the cross'”. This is no time to let the light flicker. Don’t just let the other believers around you be spectators, politely clapping for those whoa re running. Encourage them; equip them to take the torch themselves.
The best part is that running for Jesus is not restricted to only the best as the Olympics are. Everyone is eligible and everyone qualifies for this. One day you can, as the Apostle Paul did, cross that finish line and collapse into the waiting arms of the Lord Jesus. He put you on the field to carry His torch proudly and faithfully. Will he say “Well done”? Right now His torch can be in your hands. Be diligent and run hard.