The Olympic Mentality
Wasn’t the Olympics exciting to watch? The celebrations, the personal accomplishments, and even the defeats kept us on the edge of our seats as we cheered on our favorites from the comforts of our own homes. We all know, but probably don’t fully understand, the level of sacrifice, commitment, and hard work it takes to be an Olympic athlete. Words like purposeful, consistent, and focused emerged as athletes were interviewed after their performances. Their “Olympic mentality” was about getting better and never settling for “good enough.”
I was reminded of a building leader I worked with who espoused the Olympic mentality on a regular basis. She was constantly pushing her staff (sometimes a bit too hard) to be their best always, learn and grow, and never be satisfied with the status quo. Her mantra was “The best are always getting better.” Teachers in her school were some of the most dedicated, hardworking professionals I had ever seen. The Olympic mentality seemed to permeate their culture, creating a dynamic atmosphere for learning. I loved being in this environment, and it caused me to wonder. Would Jesus embrace the Olympic mentality?
My first inclination was to say, “Yes,” but I decided to search for Scriptures to confirm what I thought I already knew. These verses came to mind immediately.
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith. Hebrews 12:1-2
Whatever you do, do your work heartily as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3:23-24
But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, therefore be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:57-58
There is no doubt we are to work hard and do our best, but I sense a deeper meaning in these verses. The striving isn’t only for ourselves. There is more, something beyond ourselves. The Olympic mentality for a Christian is focused on eternity and God’s kingdom purposes here on earth. What does this look like when it comes to our spiritual life? Our work life? Our personal life? Don’t we all want the feeling of standing on the podium of life jumping up and down, holding our hands high, and celebrating the successes God has ordained for us? Of course we do! However, growth and success are in direct proportion to our level of commitment and willingness to put in the work. When we do put in the work (like Olympic athletes), victory is within reach in all areas of our lives – spiritual, work, and personal. While these three no doubt overlap, let’s take a look at each one of them separately.
Spiritual Life. There simply is no way to experience victory in our spiritual lives without practicing and perfecting the spiritual disciplines. When we have an Olympic mentality, we will never be satisfied with our prayer life, our study of God’s Word, our level of obedience, or our level of service. Our actions will reflect a desire to know Him, obey Him, seek Him, and serve Him more and more each day. We may not receive our medal this side of Heaven, but the Word does say rewards are coming! (Colossians 3:23-24, 2 Corinthians 5:10)
Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness. 1 Peter 2:2-3
So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. Colossians 1:9-10
Changing, growing, and producing fruit should characterize our spiritual lives.
Work Life. Our work life is the best opportunity to show others what it means to be an “Olympic minded” Christian. No one should ever be able to accuse us of being lazy, uncaring, or hateful. It doesn’t mean we won’t have bad days or let others down. What it does mean is we will strive to be the best employee we can be. We should work hard, remain positive, refrain from gossip, and love others to the best of our ability. We should ask forgiveness when we fail and aim to do better. Most importantly, we should not be afraid to tell others about Jesus.
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14
Striving for excellence should characterize our work lives.
Personal Life. Why is it so hard to have an Olympic mentality when it comes to our personal lives? For most educators, I think it boils down to our servant’s hearts. We are so busy taking care of everyone else (students, family, and friends) that we often place our own needs on the back burner. God wants us to be our best self, and this means making self-care a priority! I know that is easier said than done, but it is a goal we should pursue. What would it take for you to win your own gold medal in this area of your life?
Do you need to go to bed earlier and give your body more rest?
Do you need to make better food choices?
Do you need to exercise on a regular basis?
Do you need to schedule a massage?
Do you need to turn the TV off and read or journal?
I strongly believe that how we handle this area of our lives impacts how we feel about ourselves, our emotions, and our attitudes. God doesn’t want our personal lives to be out of control. He wants us to enjoy our lives, to stand on our own podium celebrating our successes!
Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. I Corinthians 6:19-20
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. Mark 6:31-32
Paying attention to and tending to our individual needs should characterize our personal lives.
When you think about it, our lives really do seem to parallel the Olympic games. All of us, in our own way, are running our own races, striving to fulfill God’s purpose in all areas of our lives. However, one significant difference from Olympic athletes is our race is never finished this side of Heaven! So press on and keep your eyes fixed on the ultimate prize—Jesus. One day we will stand on the podium with our Savior celebrating our victory!
“Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:21