Sunday, August 12, 2012

Inspiration from the Olympics

Olympians And God's Pleasure

from the August 07, 2012 eNews issue (visit the website for a FREE subscription)

"I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure." – Eric Liddell
In the movie Chariots of Fire, based on the true story of Olympian Eric Liddell, Liddell's sister complains that he should be doing more important things with his life than running. Liddell responds with the above quote, basically saying that, no, God was pleased when he ran fast. His doing what God made him to do was a blessing and a joy to both him and his Creator. As we watch the Olympic games in London, it is easy to see the glory of God displayed in human beings, especially when they recognize His hand on them.

Gabby Douglas has caught the attention of America and the world for several reasons; she gets beautiful height in her leaps and flips, earning her the nickname "the flying squirrel;" she is the first African American to win the all-around gold medal in women's gymnastics (the fourth American ever to do so at all); and she loves Jesus Christ.

After winning the gold medal for the all-around, Douglas notably said, "It is everything I thought it would be; being the Olympic champion, it definitely is an amazing feeling. And I give all the glory to God. It's kind of a win-win situation. The glory goes up to him and the blessings fall down on me."

This determined young lady is an inspiration to everybody. Her dedication to God, her hard work, and her history-making win are an encouragement to those who dream of following in her steps.

Gabby Douglas is not alone, though. There are a significant number of Olympians dedicated to giving God the glory.

Jacob Wukie loved to go bow hunting as a child. He won a bow hunting world championship at age 15 and went on to compete in archery at the college level. His perseverance in his passion for archery has led him to the 2012 Olympics, where he and the U.S. archery team captured the team competition silver medal after the team had suffered a "medal drought" since 2000.

Wukie credits God with his Olympics success. He had a poor attitude after he just missed making the 2008 Olympics team. He came in 17th in the first round of trials, when the top 16 archers moved on to the next round.

"Instead of trusting God and knowing that He was in control and had a plan for me, I was anxious and frustrated," Wukie said in a Beyond the Ultimate interview. Another archer pulled out in those 2008 trials, and Wukie was able to move forward, but his attitude was negative and he continued to shoot poorly.

Wukie had given his life to Jesus as a child, and during the trials he asked God to change his heart and fix his perspective. "The Lord did change my heart, and I became genuinely excited about the future, even though I didn't know what the future held," says Wukie. "I was right where God wanted me, and, as a result, I was very content."

He easily made the 2012 U.S. Olympic archery team, and he, Jake Kaminski and Brady Ellison won the silver medal in the team competition this Saturday. Wukie believes that God's will for him is to keep training and improving in archery, "…[B]ut regardless," he said, "I will be living my life for Christ, seeking to know Him more, and seeking to be used by Him to influence the lives of those around me so that they might know Him as well."

Reid Priddy is on his third Olympics, and at age 35 is considered an old man in U.S. men's volleyball. Like Eric Liddell, Priddy believes that God is glorified by his hard work and striving to be the best he can be with the talents he's been given.

"I believe that God is most glorified when I use the gifts He has given me to the best of my ability, whether I am on international TV or just training," Priddy told Beyond The Ultimate.

Priddy won a gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The men's volleyball team did well this year too, though they lost to Italy in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.

Priddy credits God with using volleyball to make him a better man in all aspects of his life. He gives 110 percent to the game, not for personal glory, but as part of seeking excellence in everything he does, from playing on the volleyball court to living at his home with his family. He believes our goal as Christians should be "to pursue greatness (no matter what you are doing) in the name of God and clinging to the strength He provides. Not with the end goal of winning - though it can be a goal and is part of the process - but rather to become more like God and glorify Him."

Those who serve God do not always win. Sometimes we Christians fall short of the "best" according to the world's definitions. Serving God is not a magic good luck charm. It doesn't guarantee success. It does mean we give Him everything out of our love and dedication to Him. We work our hardest, and then we trust Him with the results. We praise Him whether we win or whether we lose, letting Him work His work in our lives whatever happens.

Jamie Nieto: Seattle native high jumper Jamie Nieto cleared the 2.29 meter jump at the Olympic games this week, the same height as the three co-third place winners, but because he'd had more earlier misses than the three bronze medal winners, he fell to 6th place. He thus lost his last chance at an Olympic medal. At 35, Nieto will be too old to compete in Brazil in 2016 (barring Abraham-like miracles). At Athens in 2004, he also lost the tie for bronze because of his earlier misses - to Jaroslav Baba of the Czech Republic.

Yet, Nieto has reached the Olympics and has succeeded despite being the oldest on the U.S. high jump team. "Your only limitations are what you believe them to be, and as long as you put God first, you can achieve all things through Him," Nieto posted on his website.

He told the Christian Post, "I need God in every aspect to help me move forward in my career and being here at the Olympics is a testament."

These are just a few of the Christian Olympians competing for the U.S., and this list does not even touch on the non-American Christians at the London Olympics.

Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce called her home church in Jamaica on Sunday to thank the congregation for their prayers. Fraser-Pryce won the women's 100-meter final on Saturday with a time of 10.75 seconds. "I am just excited and if I never knew how powerful God was, I found out yesterday," she said. She has hardly kept her faith in God a secret.

Then there is Leo Manzano, who carried flags for both Mexico and the U.S. when he stood Tuesday in honor of the silver medal he'd won in the 1,500 meters. While he lives in the United States, he says his "roots are still in Mexico."

Manzano's dependence on God comes out constantly in the things he says. He gives God the credit for his victory in London, especially in his ability to race into second place at the very end of the race, despite the blood that oozed down his leg from spike wounds. He calls his final kick ability his "amazing gift from God."

"My legs just felt like they were bricks," said Manzano. "But really something inside me said, 'Keep going; keep going; keep pushing; keep pushing.' As I was coming down the track, I definitely prayed. I said, 'God give me the strength to push through,' and I definitely felt a surge of energy drawn from my body. The next thing I know I'm in second."

"It's been a long time," Manzano said. "I've been on five U.S. teams now. It's finally my turn. Last year, I came off the track, and I was limping off. From that to this, I couldn't ask for more."

Men and women from across the world are competing for medals, demonstrating not just their own abilities, but the amazing beauty and power of the human body and spirit. We are the treasures of God; He made us for excellence, and He is glorified when we push to the limits the talents He has given to us. When we recognize that our gifts are truly from Him, we get to enjoy the blessing of knowing His direct influence in our lives and His joy in us. We get to feel His pleasure.

Related Links:
• Olympics 2012: Gabby Douglas, "The Flying Squirrel," Makes History - The Washington Times
• Shooting for Gold: Olympian Jacob Wukie - The Examiner
• Jacob Wukie Helps U.S. Claim First Medal Of The London Olympics - The Plain Dealer
• Olympian Plays For God And Country: Reid Priddy - The Examiner
• Veteran Reid Priddy Thinks U.S. Men's Volleyball Can Repeat As Gold Medalists - Detroit Free Press
• Men's High Jump Final: Jamie Nieto Loses Bronze Medal Tiebreaker Again, Falls To 6th - SB Nation
• Jamie Nieto Puts God First In The Olympics And Always - Praise 102.7
• Fraser-Pryce Thanks Church For Prayers - Jamaica Observer
• Jones Misses Glory In 100 Hurdles, While Manzano Wraps Historic 1,500 - Sports Illustrated
• Manzano Claims Silver In Men's 1500 - The Miami Herald

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