Summary: The Christian as an Olympic Athlete. Powerpoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request – email: Listen to audio of this sermon at:


(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:

• Running,

• Boxing,

• 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)


• 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?”

He replied;

“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.

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