The Standard February 17, 2022
Every four years when the Olympic Games roll around our chins practically hit the floor as we watch an assortment of fascinating new tricks, jumps and twists and witness speed records being shattered. Things we never imagined possible sixteen or twenty years before become almost commonplace. Brand new sports are added. The level of difficulty required to win continually rises. A front-side triple cork 1440. A quadruple axel. A switch left triple 1980 mute.
The precision, artistry, speed, endurance, strength and bravery of these athletes astound us. Most of them have had a singular focus on their sport since they were young children. Some will leave Beijing with their dreams fulfilled while the hopes of others will be dashed. As Jim McKay used to say on ABC’s Wide World of Sports, there is “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”
There are two good reminders we can take away from the Winter Olympics. The first is that the level of single-mindedness necessary to win fleeting, but wonderful, prizes in sports is the minimal kind of focus we as Christians should have to attain a prize that is not fleeting.
“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. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. So, they do it to obtain a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore, I run in such a way as not to run aimlessly; I box in such a way, as to avoid hitting air; but I strictly discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
Secondly, as we watch athletes from all over the world, we can’t help but remember that there are countries where religious freedom is not a reality. People of minority faiths are persecuted or even put to death for their beliefs. Leading human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch accuse China of crimes against humanity. Many believe that China has put more than one million Uyghur Muslims in “re-education” or “concentration” camps and that genocide is taking place.
The Voice of the Martyrs and Open Door are ministries which assist persecuted Christians around the world. Open Door asks us to pray for China in these ways:
- Please pray that despite intense surveillance, faith with flourish in China and more people will discover God’s love.
- Pray that local Open Doors partners will be able to reach vulnerable Christians with vital Christian literature, training and fellowship.
- Pray for the authorities in China to recognize the importance of religious freedom, and allow the church to gather and worship without restrictions.
We know the power of prayer. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) As a preface to the parable of the persistent widow, the gospel writer Luke writes, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (Luke 18:1)
We still have a few days left. Enjoy the last weekend of Beijing 2022!