Summary: The Christian as an Olympic Athlete. Powerpoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request – email: email@example.com) Listen to audio of this sermon at: www.gcurley.info
(a). Look around at the winners (vs 1a).
(b). Look at yourself! (vs 1b).
(c). A Look at Jesus Christ (vs 2-4).
If the Apostle Paul were alive today and picked up a newspaper:
• I think like many of us he would start reading it at the back page.
• Taking in the latest news from the world of sport.
• I say that because in many of his writings;
• Sport is one of Paul’s favourite sources to draw illustrations from.
• As a preacher you often tell stories concerning things you find interesting.
• Quote: “You preached a whole sermon without mentioning football!”
Paul in the New Testament often described the Christian Life:
• As a race to be run, or a fight to be fought.
• These are two pictures drawn from the Olympic Games:
• In the original Olympics there were only one event.
• Called the stadion (or "stade") race,
• This was a short sprint measuring between 180 and 240 metres,
• Or the length of the stadium
• Only men participated and only men watched,
• I’ll tell you why later.
Later on other events were added such as:
• The Pankration (Combination of wrestling & boxing & kicking)
• The Pentathlon (running, long jump, discus, javelin, wrestling)
In his letters Paul draws on these Olympic illustrations again and again:
• e.g.: When he writes to the Corinthians chapter 9 verses 24-27.
• e.g. Galatians chapter 2 verses 2 & Philippians chapter 2 verses 16.
• e.g. 1 Timothy chapter 6 verses 12 & 2 Timothy chapter 2 verses 5
• e.g. Best known being 2 Timothy chapter 4 verses 7 when at the end of his life he wrote:
“I have fought the good fight (Boxing), I have finished the race (Running),
I have kept the faith” (Linking both of these things to the life of faith)
THE WRITER TO THE LETTER OF THE HEBREWS:
• Whoever he was, many think it was Paul, some like Calvin are convinced it wasn’t!
• Whoever he was also used sport for his illustrations.
• Here in Hebrews chapter 12 verse 4,
• He refers to two of those Olympic events:
• Verse 1: Athletics mentioned “Running the race”.
• Verse 4: Boxing may be referred to “Resisted to the point of shedding blood”.
It was a patriotic thing to be a good athlete and to bring glory to your country:
• And Paul combines those two things:
• Athletics & Citizenship in this chapter.
• In fact no-one could take part in the official games,
• Unless he was a citizen of Greece and also a ‘freeman’ (not a slave).
So the writer of the Hebrews:
• Uses the picture of the race (verses 1-13)
• Uses the picture of citizenship (verses 14-29).
To get his point across and help his readers understand his message:
• Note: that the author was writing primarily to Christians;
• Not only Christians but those who had been converted from a Jewish background,
• These Christians were struggling in their faith;
• They were finding following Jesus tough & felt like giving up,
• And so the writer of this letter wrote to them;
• To specifically encourage them to keep pressing on, not to give up.
Note: One theme that dominates this chapter is Endurance:
• Verse 2: “Jesus.... endured the cross”.
• It is also there in verses 3: “Not grow weary”.
• Verse 7: “Endure hardship”.
• . And it was a point mentioned again and again earlier on in this letter.
So in times of difficulties & hardships;
• The writer gives his readers some encouraging advice,
• To keep them going forward.
• 20th October 1968 Ethiopian Mamo Wolde won the Olympic marathon.
• Over an hour later Tanzanian John Akhwari finished last.
• John Akhwari’s leg was bleeding after a serious fall,
• A reporter asked him:
“Why did you carry on with a serious injury and no hope of coming anything but last?”
“My country did not send me seven thousand miles to Mexico to start a race.
They sent me seven thousand miles to finish it!”
That is the kind of attitude Paul wants the Hebrew Christians to have:
• And to help them develop that mental toughness he gives them three examples.
• To encourage them to keep going, even when the situation is difficult.
(1). 3 Examples (verses 1-4).
(a). Look around at the winners (vs 1a).
• Chapter 12 verse 1 starts with the word:
• “Therefore” or “In view of what I’ve just said”:
• So it is obviously linked to chapter 11,
• Note: chapters were put into the N.T. by Stephen Langton in 1228, not by the Holy Spirit.