The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio are off and running. Literally. Soccer. Rowing. Archery. Shooting. Water Polo. Fencing. Beach Volleyball. And table tennis have all had events. Gold medals have been won. And world records have been set.
While I’m more interested in the track and field events and basketball, all of these sports have several things in common: Disciplined athletes. A desire to win. And fans that love and follow the sport. There’s also one more thing they all share.
The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Our word of the week is “victorious.” It is a form of the Greek word nike’ (nee’kay). (Yes, like the shoe company.) In Greek mythology Nike was the goddess of victory, who presided over all military and athletic contests. Her image is stamped on the Olympic gold medals. Nike is used 29 times in the New Testament and is also rendered “conquers” or “overcomes.”
Everyone who competes in the games wants to be victorious. No one dedicates four years of their life only to participate in a half-hearted fashion, expecting to lose. All athletes want to win. They want to receive the gold medal. Or at the very least either the silver or bronze.
The Bible is filled with metaphors of the sports world urging us on to victory. Numerous times in the book of Revelation God’s people are encouraged to spiritual victory.
The beloved John promises, “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7).
To the brethren at Smyrna who were suffering, enduring opposition, and experiencing persecution, John encourages, “Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death” (Rev. 2:11).
Even in Sardis, a church with little spiritual vitality, there were some who were faithful and Jesus assured them “All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. (Rev. 3:5)
I John 5:4 reminds us that because we are born of God and belong to God, we have the resources to be victorious as we engage in a spiritual struggle with Satan. We will face conflicts, controversies, and confrontations. However we can either be conquered or we can be the conqueror.There are times when it seems like the devil is winning, but God promises that those who remain faithful will be victorious (Rev. 12:11; 13:7; 17:14.) We can be assured of victory because we are on the Lord’s side.
Like the Olympic athlete, Christians are faced with mental weariness, physical pain, and emotional discouragement. There are also temptations to give up. Spiritual exhaustion has claimed the souls of too many who have quit the Christian race.
But God has promised spiritual strength, sustenance, and courage to continue. By His grace and guidance we can overcome and receive the heavenly goal. As John closes Revelation, he reminds us of the reward awaiting the faithful who finish the race.
And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. (Rev. 21:5-7)
Will you be vanquished or victorious? The conquered or the conqueror? A winner or loser? The Lord is waiting at the finish line to crown you victorious!
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman