It’s at the end of many victories in the Olympics. The finger points to Heaven. The upward glance. Athletes giving credit to God for their victory. Many even verbally acknowledge Him in television interviews. These outward expressions appear legitimate.
It’s the same at church. Whether it’s the person behind you in the pew or even in your same house, only God knows the legitimacy of their faith in Him. We can’t really know for sure. Yet, the Bible does give instructions for giving evidence of the reality of the faith.
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
The article Christian Olympians Give God the Praise at London Summer Games features tweets from athletes acknowledging God.
“Thank You Lord for another opportunity.” (Lolo Jones)
“Random praise B4 bed… Where would I be without His grace? So thankful for all the blessings that continually shower down on me #Godisgood.” (Tamika Catchings)
Great examples of expressing one’s faith publicly. But what about showing love? Jones’ life story certainly is inspiring in a Tim Tebow sort of way. Even Time Magazine acknowledges her faith in an article focusing on redemption after her fall in the Beijing Olympics.
Catchings, WNBA MVP and member of the 2012 Women’s Olympic Basketball team, definitely provides inspiration simply by overcoming hearing deficiencies. In addition to her outstanding basketball skills, Catchings is known for being actively involved in (and founder of) Catch the Stars, a foundation that provides an opportunity for inner city kids to be positively reinforced through sports and education.”
In an interview with CBN, Catching says of her faith, ““It is hard to be a Christian in the WNBA… Just trying to walk with Him and not be pulled by all the negative forces from the outside. I think that what I do with my platform is that I live my life as Christ-like as I can.”
Character at Home
Two other athletes, Bryan Clay and Debbie Flood, also provide terrific examples of Olympians living for Jesus. Bryan Clay, Olympic gold and silver medalist in the decathlon, failed to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics, yet he’s going anyway. Why? To receive the 2012 Eric Liddell Award, an award given to one male and one female Olympian. Debbie Flood, a two-time British Olympic silver medalist and three-time world champion in rowing, also received the award. (Flood did participate in that year’s Olympic games, but her rowing team was unable to secure a medal in their race.)
Liddell was a committed Christian who won gold in the 400m at the 1924 Paris Olympics. You might have heard about him from the inspirational film Chariots of Fire. The award bearing his name honors one male and female athlete for outstanding character at home, in the community, and on and off the field of competition.
More important than their Olympic career is how Clay and Flood live out their faith. Clay founded the Bryan Clay Foundation in 2005 to help children discover their gifts and develop their character. Flood co-founded Creativity in Sport, a community interest organization giving at-risk youth opportunities to study positive life skills curriculum and work toward fitness teaching qualification.
Doesn’t knowing that an athlete lives for Christ make you want to cheer for them even more? While I enjoy watching the Olympics because of the athleticism and the excitement of competition, I find joy in discovering athletes who achieve victory outside of their sport in ways that make an eternal difference.