With the closing of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, here is a Bible knowledge question. Which three Graeco-Roman sports are in the New Testament? The answer interestingly is running, wrestling and boxing. I have preached on these three sports and their spiritual parallel over this Summer, including at our Christian Young People's camp. Have you ever considered that you were enrolled into these three sports, spiritually speaking, from the day you were converted, that is if you are a Christian?
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2.
There are three things to consider. First, we are to dress for action which means to run light, that is without "weights" or the "sin which clings so closely". The latter refers to original sin which always presses us and to tempt us into sin, but we must not succumb. Second, "let us run" means we are not competing against fellow Christians but we are to run and encourage one another; the "us" is plural. Third, a key word is "endurance and indeed "endure or endurance" is found three times in the first three verses of Hebrews chapter 12. How do we learn endurance? It is by enduring. Do you pray that your spiritual ability to endure would glorify God?
The aim of this sport is to win by strength and by deceiving your opponent to get them onto the floor. One cannot die wrestling, though you can get bruises, wounds and become winded. Christianity is not easy and we should expect bruises but have a forgiving spirit for those who hurt us, while recognising that we also hurt others.
However, this sport is used in reference to the "schemes of the devil" against the church and we we must wrestle to win and not quit.
Ephesians 6:10-13 "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm".
The primary action required here is to "stand". If you get wrestled to the ground then get back up and keep standing. Be encouraged O Christian to endure and to stand and to keep standing.
This is a sport which I knew little of until I noticed this sport in the New testament. I have discovered that there is a lot of skill required in this sport.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified 1 Cor 9:24-27.
Chapter nine of First Corinthians is a chapter filled with questions by Paul the apostle. Asking the right questions is a very important teaching method and all are skilled teachers are good at asking the right questions. However, did you notice here the connection to boxing. Boxing; what a sport! It is a sport which was fist fighting and in New Testament times I am told there was just one round where you boxed until your opponent could not respond.
Paul uses boxing in two main ways. First, he says "I do not box as one beating the air". Paul served and lived his Christian life with purpose, with deliberate aims and so must we. Second, he turns on himself and he says that he "disciplines his own body" which is what all olympians do. The whole life of an olympian is subjected to the final goal of winning a gold medal and likewise the whole life of a Christian should be in subjection to the aim of finishing your Christian life for the glory of God. Is that how you live your life?
This blog post is a brief introduction to three metaphors for the Christian life which are rich, extended and worthy of further meditation. However, though these metaphors extend to the Christian life that is sanctified, they first point to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one who ran, wrestled and boxed with perfect success. He ran his race to the cross and purchased a perfect redemption, he wrestled against the schemes of the devil and Jesus Christ prevailed. He also boxed with aim and everything he did defeated false teaching and in redemption the LORD Jesus Christ defeated sin, death and Satan. The Lord Jesus Christ is our real sporting hero, one that has eternal spiritual consequences when we put our trust in him for salvation.