The Olympics, Coleraine and a spiritual lesson

Over the past 2 days, 3 young men who learned their sport on the River Bann have been putting their town – Coleraine – on the map. Not that it wasn’t on the map before – in fact they say that an area on the edge of the town was home to Ireland’s earliest settlement – but these three young men, Richard and Peter Chambers (silver medals yesterday) and Alan Campbell (bronze today), have helped to raise its profile. Indeed it seems that yesterday the local Baptist Church was the place to be (the church where the Chambers brothers grew up) as they projected the race on the screen to an excited congregation (?), while today the crowds gathered in in front of an outdoor screen in the middle of the town.

Today’s hero, Alan Campbell, appeared to have exhausted every last drop of his physical and emotional resources by the end of his race. News profiles have reported how his dedication included Christmas day training – all part of the dedicated effort channelled towards Olympic success.

These three young men – and others who have worked unbelievably hard for these games – deserve our congratulations and the plaudits that come their way.

Bible commentators reckon that Paul’s reference to athletic competition in 1 Corinthians   would have been quite significant, given the fact that the Isthmian Games were held in Corinth: at the time they were second only to the Olympic Games.

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

I dare say that medals – gold, silver or bronze – last longer than an ancient wreath. But Paul’s point stands. The reward in the Christian life will remain when temporary rewards are gone and forgotten.

What race are you and I competing in? What’s our reward? Do we – like Alan Campbell and the others – give it our all?


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