Olympic Thoughts

Posted on August 22, 2008 · Posted in Current Events, Sports, Worldview

Then
he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

6
When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD’s
anointed stands here before the LORD."

7
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his
height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks
at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

The Olympics
are winding down this weekend. There have been many successes and many
disappointments. Michael Phelps grabbed the attention of the world by winning 8
gold medals and setting 7 world records. Usain Bolt was equally impressive, setting
three world records by winning the 100 and 200 meter dashes and the 4×100 men’s
relay. The U.S. Volleyball teams are playing for gold after a tragic start to
the games. But there are heartaches as well. The images of those who lost are
as haunting as those of the winners are jubilant. The U.S.4×100 relay team efforts were
forever defined by the video footage of a dropped baton rolling aimlessly
across the lanes of the track.

This
fascination with athletic success is a human thing. Tedd Tripp puts it this way
in Instructing a Child’s Heart:

That
is why we enjoy watching sports on TV. We love to marvel at amazing feats that
ordinary mortals cannot accomplish. Whether football, basketball, ice skating
or skiing, we love to be dazzled by athleticism.This
is uniquely human. There are no diving competitions for penguins in the
Antarctic. They dive from massive ice floes, barely breaking the water, and yet
no one scores them. At the end of the day there is no award ceremony. A brown
bear grabs a salmon from the raging Columbia River
.
No bears line the shores applauding. Little bears don’t idolize Big Brown. They
don’t hang posters of him in their dens.

 

Humans are
driven to obsession by symbolic images, such as Olympic medals. As you listen
to the biographies of the various athletes in these games, this obsession is sketched
out in real life. Families willingly separate so that their children can have
the training that will result in gold medals. In China, three–year-old children are
selected in pre-school to train for gymnastics. They are taken from their homes
and brought to specialized training facilities. They will see their parents
once a year—all this for the pursuit of image and the praise of man. It is
indeed a fallen world. 

Parents, it
is possible for you to be just as taken with the importance of outward
appearance as are these parents of Olympic children. While you might not be
building your lives around the pursuit of a gold medal, it is still possible to
communicate to your children that the symbolic images of the world are the most
valuable things in life. In our modern culture children are displayed, not
protected. Their value is often tied to how they make others feel about them.
Parents live for their children and children live for themselves. Teaching
children the hope of the Gospel to address the difficulties of life—shepherding
children to live as followers of Christ—should be the highest priority of parenting;
instead, well-meaning parents often invest more seriously in their children’s
accomplishment and performance.

The
commitment to a child’s accomplishments is often really a search for parental
redemption through the lives of their children. This is a poor substitute for
the true redemptive power of the gospel; sadly, such priorities will encourage children
to think that personal success is based upon meeting performance goals. This
temptation can be subtle. For example, is your goal for obedience related to
your children’s performance at church? Or is your goal to teach them that we
love to obey God because he has been so good to us in Christ?

Last week I
referenced Tim Challies’ son receiving a sportsmanship award. This young man
was demonstrating things that have to do with treasure that will not be lost,
stolen or rust. Medals are things of this world. Investing in the prize of the
Gospel—riches that will endure forever—transcend this world (see Luke 12). Why
not take a moment to consider what goals and accomplishments are important to
you? Are you as thrilled when you see the fruit of the Spirit in your child as
you are with a good report card? I realize that a good report may reflect godly
character, but what are you the most focused upon? What do your children think
is the most important to you? Are you urging your children towards symbolic
gold medals that ultimately please you and the world? Or are you leading your
children towards the cross, where treasure awaits that is greater than anything
this world has to offer?

Samuel looked
at the outward appearance of Jesse’s sons and assumed that this meant inward
value as well. God has a different standard. May he give us grace to embrace
that standard. May we invest our time in helping our children to guard their
hearts rather than mere performance.

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