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Muhammad Ali today is called the greatest. But it hasn’t always been that way. He became the greatest in the eyes of the world over the last 40 years. Muhammad Ali used to “float like a butterfly” and “sting like a bee”. He dazzled crowds with his amazing ability to dodge a punch while he used a very unconventional style, with hands held low, as he bobbed and weaved. Ali won the heavyweight title on February 25th, 1964 from Soney Liston. Ali was a 7-1 underdog and 43 of 46 major press writers picked him to lose. You see nobody really believed that he could be a champion. But he defeated Soney Liston to become the Heavy Weight Champion of the world. Well on his way to becoming the greatest, Ali lost his title and then won it back it perhaps the greatest Heavy Weight fight of all time, the “Rumble in the Jungle”, against then champion Gorge Foreman. Ali played what came to be known as the “rope a dope”. Ali covered up and let the heavy hitter, Gorge Foreman, tire himself out throwing punches, then when Forman was exhausted, Ali knocked him out. Now he became “Americas Champion” and some called him the greatest. Ali would again lose his title to Leon Spinks and then regain it after beating Leon Spinks in a unanimous decision. Now, he had become the only Heavy Weight to win the title three times and many called him the greatest. Ali would go on to lose two more fights to Trevor Burbick and Larry Holmes before retiring in 1981. Ali would have the spotlight once more in 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta Ali, with hands trembling from the Parkinson’s Disease he now suffers from, lit the cauldron to signify the start of the Summer Olympic Games. Many people shed tears as they watched “The Greatest” light the torch. Because of his accomplishments, the world calls Ali “The Greatest”. And while Ali’s story is inspiring and should stir the emotions of our heart, what the world calls great and what the Lord calls great are often two very different things. While Ali became great by winning the Heavy Weight title three times, God isn’t impressed by such accomplishments. While God desires good things in our life, he is immeasurably more concerned with our character than with our trophies. While he enables us to do great things, he desires that we would do his will, and God desires that we would understand what lasting accomplishment is. Faith…Hope…Love… The trophies will gather dust and our bodies wear out with just a little time, but the things of God endure forever!
The United States Women’s Softball team won the gold medal in Atlanta’s 1996 Olympic games. They lost only one game but from that loss came a remarkable story about perseverance. In the fifth inning against Australia, Danielle Tyler hit a home run over the center-field fence. The American third baseman floated around the bases with a rush of adrenaline. When she was greeted by a swarm of well-wishing teammates at home plate she let the excitement distract her focus and she did not touch the base. When all of the yelling subsided, the Australian team quietly appealed to the umpire who dramatically called Tyler out.
Rather than scoring a run, Tyler’s blast over the fence netted her team an out. As it ended up, had the lady slugger stepped on home plate, her team would have won 1-0. Instead, after seven innings of regulation play the game was tied at 0-0. In extra innings, Australia emerged with a 2-1 win and the U.S. team took their only loss of the Olympics. (Autoillustrator.com, PERSEVERANCE)
Dr. Bruce Emmert
One of the most touching moment in the Sydney Olympics was when Eric "The Swimmer" Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea swam in the 100-meter free style qualifying heat. The 22-year-old African had only learned to swim last January, had only practiced in a 20-meter pool without lane markers, and had never raced more than 50 meters. By special invitation of the International Olympic Committee, under a special program that permits poorer countries to participate even though their athletes don’t meet customary standards, he had been entered in the 100-meter men’s freestyle.
When the other two swimmers in his heat were disqualified because of false starts, Moussambani was forced to swim alone. Eric Moussambani was, to use the words of an Associated Press story about his race, "charmingly inept." He never put his head under the water’s surface and flailed wildly to stay afloat. With ten meters left to the wall, he virtually came to a stop. Some spectators thought he might drown! Even though his time was over a minute slower than what qualified for the next level of competition, the capacity crowd at the Olympic Aquatic Center stood to their feet and cheered the swimmer on. After what seemed like an eternity, the African reached the wall and hung on for dear life. When he had caught his breath and regained his composure, the French-speaking Moussambani said through an interpreter, "I want to send hugs and kisses to the crowd. It was their cheering that kept me going."
As Christians, we have a cheering section encouraging us on when we are tired and calling out to us to do better when we are feeling at our best. The author of Hebrews says, “We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” What in the world does he mean—great cloud of witnesses? The author of Hebrews is telling us that we are a part of something much richer and deeper than we know. As children of God and as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, we are a part of a family.
THE CHEERING CROWD
Picabo Street first joined the U.S. Ski Team when she was only 17. She went on to become the only American skier to ever win the World Cup downhill championship. In 1996 she tore a crucial ligament in her left knee. The 30 year-old Street went through extensive rehabilitation just to compete in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. Street said this about her Olympic experience: "The last four years for me have been about that one moment coming into the finish when I heard the Americans roar and saw kids' faces painted red, white and blue. That's when I felt the pride of being an American in an American Olympics."
And You have a crowd cheering for you.
Picaboo Street did not win the gold, or the silver, or the bronze medal this year. She finished 16th in her downhill competition. But the crowd cheered for her just the same. The Americans screamed and cheered because one of their own had finished the race. And you have a crowd cheering for you. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses, let us throw off ev...
The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona featured memorable moments of sports history.
Derek Redmond of Great Britain was on the way to fulfilling a lifetime dream, that of winning a gold medal in the Olympics. He had earned a spot in the semifinals of the 400 meter race, and as the gun sounded to start the race, Derek got off to a great start. He was running the race of his life, and the finish line was in sight, when suddenly he felt a stab of pain in his right leg. He feel face first to the track with a torn hamstring. The race was over for Derek.
He struggled to his feet before the medical team could reach him. Though every runner had passed him, he began hopping forward, tears of pain and disappointment streaking his face, determined to finish the race. Suddenly, man plowed through the security guards on the sidelines and ran onto the track.
He raced up to Derek and hugged him, "You don;t have to do this," Jim Redmond told his weeping son.
"Yes I do," Derek answered.
"Well, then," his father said, "we’re going to finish the race together."
Derek’s father gripped his son around the shoulders, and they faced the finish line, resolutely waving off the security men who hovered around them. They limped and hopped together, Derek’s head sometimes buried in his father’s shoulder, and stayed in Derek’s lane all the way to the end.
The watching crowd gaped at first at the unusual scene. Then one by one, they rose to their feet, and began cheering and crying at the son’s determination and the father’s support.
I think of Eric Liddell. The movie Chariots of Fire depicts how his sister Jenny tried to persuade Eric to give up his running, and go to China with her to be a missionary. He said, "No, God has made me fast and called me to run." It would have been wrong at that point to be a missionary. Of course, Liddell had other opportunities to take up the cross. At the 1924 Olympics in Paris, he would choose to forfeit his chance to win a medal in the 200 meter dash, something he very much wanted to do, because he believed the Lord did not want him to race on Sunday. Then a number of years later, he would take up the cross quite literally and go to China as a missionary where he would later be killed by the Japanese.
Dr. Bruce Emmert
In the 2000 summer Olympics, the USA women’s softball team won its second gold-medal. Lisa Fernandez is their pitcher. One commentator says that she is “arguably the best women’s softball pitcher the world has ever seen. She has found a source of strength and support that bridges all the highs and lows, strikeouts and home runs that life throws her way” [from CBN, 700 Club interview, Michael Rasnick, 700 Club Producer, autumn 2000]. This is what Lisa Fernandez says:
"Being with God and walking as one [with him] has definitely fulfilled me. He’s filled the voids in my life. When I feel insecure about myself and I’m not sure where I’m going, I can turn to Him and open up the Bible. I can read a passage, and all of a sudden, my world has changed and my view is clear." [Rasnick, ibid]
FAITHFUL TO THE FINISH
In the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Derek Redmond of Great Britain was considered a favorite contender for a medal. It was the evening of August 3, 1992 as Redmond was pitted against seven others in a semi-final in the 400 meters. Redmond knelt poised, waiting for the race to start. As the gun went off, his body was translated into a human locomotion, feverishly charging against the other runners.
As Redmond prepared to round the curve after the halfway mark, however, he suddenly heard a pop. It was his right hamstring. Redmond soon found himself trapped by the searing pain of his leg.
The other runners finished the race as he desperately continued his painful trek to the finish line. He waved off the stretchers, however, determined to finish the race.
From the stands, his father had been watching. He pushed his way past security guards to meet his son on the track. He then reached his weeping son. “Look, you don’t have to do this.”
Redmond then replied: “Yes I do.”
His father then said: “Well, if you’re going to finish this race, we’ll finish it together.”
With his arm locked around his son, Jim Redmond helped his...
PASSING THE TORCH
On August the 13th, the Summer Olympics begin 16 jam pack days of competition at the site of the original Olympic Games, Athens, Greece. This month we have watched American athletes compete for a spot on the team in track and field and swimming and if their times carry over to Athens, we are in for a record setting month of August.
How many of you watched the swimming competition? In Athens eyes will be on the swimming venue to see if 19-year-old Michael Phelps can beat Mark Spitz record of 7 gold medals. He has qualified for an unprecedented 5 individual events and has the possibility of swimming in 4 relays, which provide him with an opportunity for 9 gold medals if the United States wins all the events.
What does it take to compete like Mike? Phelps said “I started swimming when I was 6-years-old. I swim everyday for about two to two-and-a-half hours. I do doubles on Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the school year and then Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday in the summer.”
After winning his 3 gold medals in the USA Olympic trials, the 200-meter butterfly, Mark Spitz presents Phelps with the medal. Lisa Dillman of the Los Angeles Times said, “All that was missing was the flaming torch being passed and a rainbow over the harbor.”
Today, I want to talk about passing the torch. As I watched Spitz place the gold around Phelps neck, raising his hand in victory, my thoughts went on to the task of passing to the next generations what we have gained in ours. I am doing a series on going for the gold, as we get ready for Olympics in Athens. One might think the logical conclusion of the series would be passing the baton but it is not.
When we have the baton in our hand, we need to already be thinking of our hand off, we need to be making the plans for the next person who will carry the torch. To wait until the end of the run, the end of the swimming lane, the end of the journey to begin to look around for someone to carry the torch is too late. You need to be bringing that person along with you.
This will not be Michael Phelps first Olympics; he competed 4 years ago, the youngest male to compete in the Olympics since 1932. Four years ago he was in training, he didn’t medal, his age was his only call to fame on that day for he finished 5th in the 200 meter butterfly and event four years later he has no equal. In four years, following the advice of coaches and continuing the discipline he established for himself beginning at age 6, he has come from the apprentice to the master and one day from the torchbearer to the torch passer.
This should be the task of every believer in Jesus Christ, to move from trainee to trainer, from novice to master, torchbearer to torch passer. If it is not happening right now in your life, then you need to begin the implementation of these skills today.
SOURCE: Bob Briggs in "Passing the Torch" on www.sermoncentral.com.
In the Seoul Olympics, sailing competitions were under way at Pusan on September 24, 1988, with winds raging at 35 knots and playing havoc with the boats. Two sailors of the Singapore team, Joseph Chan and Shaw Her, were thrown overboard when their boat capsized.
Canada’s Lawrence Lemieux was sailing alone nearby in a separate event when he saw the sailors in distress. He rescued Chan, who was exhausted from struggling against the strong currents in his weighted sailing jacket. By the time Lemieux finished helping the Singapore team, he had fallen well behind in his race.
Judges awarded Lemieux second place—the position he was in when he went to the sailors’ aid—and the International Olympic Committee gave him a special award for his gallantry.
“It’s the first rule of sailing to help people in distress,” said Lemieux, downplaying the incident.
—Bud Greenspan in Parade