Of all people, LeBron James most accurately articulated the essence of the Olympic spirit at the close of our recent 2012 Olympics Games (I’m still a sworn Miami Heat hater though because of my loyalties to our beloved Los Angeles Lakers).
After the Dream Team’s gold medal basketball victory over Team Spain, the interviewer said to a beaming LeBron, “Wow, it’s been quite a year for you with your NBA Finals victory and now a gold medal. What does this past year mean for you personally?”
LeBron responded with the poise of a true Olympian. He said, “This moment isn’t about me. It’s about the 3 letters on the front of my jersey: U.S.A.” And then he proceeded to sidestep the question and simply express how proud he was to represent his nation before the rest of the world.
A few minutes later all of the Dream Team members mounted the victors’ podium as their nation’s anthem filled the stadium, and their nation’s flag ascended above the flags of every other contending nation. That final moment from the London 2012 Olympics beautifully expressed a sentiment from Jesus in John 15:8. He said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit.”
Just as the victories and achievements of Olympic athletes bring glory to their respective nations, so too our spiritual fruitfulness and accomplishments are for the glory of God’s kingdom.
“Lord, help us to excel, not for personal ambition, recognition, or acclaim, but for the reputation, exaltation, and advancement of Your Kingdom. We want to see the banner of Your Kingdom exalted above all others. Amen.”
Atlanta Olympic Rings. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This summer is the Games of the XXX Olympiad, and Jessica and I have already cleared our schedules so we can watch Michael Phelps, Brian Clay, and our other favorite athletes make Olympic history. They’ve worked, trained, and agonized for their moments of Olympic glory, and I can’t wait to cheer them on.
I just hope they don’t disqualify themselves between now and then.
We all know that the Olympic games are about far more than a race or an event—they’re about a lifetime of preparation for that event. Phelps and Clay won’t win repeat gold in England this summer unless they’re careful with how they live today.
The Apostle Paul understood this, and he used explicitly Olympic language in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 when he said, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 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. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
My heart resonates with Paul’s desire to avoid disqualification (I’m sure yours does too). And I keep thinking about the fact that there are multiple forms of disqualification. A false start from the starting blocks can disqualify a sprinter from their big event, but so can a positive drug test in the weeks leading up to the event. And so can a failure to diligently pay the price every single day in practice.
Sometimes we can court disqualification through inattention and inactivity just as much as through more overt areas of compromise. Let’s do a little pre-Olympic soul-searching to make sure we aren’t guilty of courting disqualification in any significant area of our lives.
Image via Wikipedia
I’ve discovered the answer for how to succeed in life, relationships, leadership, and ministry.
However, before you write me off as either delusional or presumptuous, let me quickly say that I didn’t originate the answer—I just heard it and wrote it down. I was in a pastors’ training seminar with Pastor Jack Hayford (an esteemed author, teacher, and pastor to pastors) when I heard it. Jack was coaching a roomful of pastors on how to succeed in life and ministry, when he made a statement that has forever lodged in my heart. He said, “Leadership that succeeds walks softly, like a barefoot Moses in Sinai.”
I loved that statement! And it resonated with me on multiple levels. As a student of the Bible, I’ve always loved the imagery of Moses slipping off his sandals and kneeling on holy ground, and it’s always inspired me to pursue my own moments of barefooted worship and surrender. As a church leader, that statement reminded me that the safest place in the world is the place of reverential devotion and the fear of the Lord.
I think Pastor Jack nailed the essence of successful leadership. Leaders who succeed for the long haul never lose their dependence on the power and presence of God. They never walk in self-sufficient arrogance, and they are quick to discern when common ground turns holy.
A barefoot Moses in Sinai—I hope that’s descriptive of you and me. And I hope it always continues to be.
Image via Wikipedia
The ultimate compliment is the compliment we most want to hear delivered by the person from whom we most want to hear it. I know that is terribly obvious, but think about it with me for a second. Twenty compliments directed at areas of our lives where we are indifferent make little impact on our soul, while one intentional affirmation aimed at our deepest desire can make us soar for a lifetime. I recently found “the ultimate compliment” that I want to give my life to pursuing. I’ll have to steal it though because it’s already been given to someone else.
King Hiram gave it to King Solomon in 2 Chronicles 2:11 when he said, “Because the Lord loves His people, he has made you king over them.” Is that not the ultimate compliment? “Because I love THEM, I’m giving them YOU. YOU are the manifestation of my love for THEM.”
I want that compliment! I want my family and loved ones to see me as God’s “I love you.” Regardless of whatever else happens in their lives, I want them to be able to point to our relationship and say, “that’s one of the ways I’ve always know that God loves me.”
Let’s live, and then become, the ultimate compliment.
- Image via Wikipedia
While traveling through Europe the summer after my high school graduation I made an interesting observation about many of the ancient cathedrals–their walls were often adorned with the likenesses of human skulls. Although a Pirates of the Caribbean skull-laden decor is the last look I would want in my own church, I think the architects of those early sanctuaries were on to something: when we live our lives from the grave looking back we live lives of greater significance and impact.
There’s no question that a recognition of our mortality can inspire a determination to live our remaining days well. And personally I find that to be one of the sobering blessings of being a pastor. Whenever I’m preparing thoughts to share with the friends and family members of departed loved ones, I find myself wondering what people will say about me. And inevitably I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s famous statement: “I am not afraid of what history will say about me, for I intend to write it.”
I want to do the same–I want my life to be a living script that my loved ones can recite at my memorial service.
Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “Death is the destiny of every man; and the living should take it to heart.” Let’s take those ancient words to heart, and then go out and live, laugh, and love in a way that honors God and serves the world around us.