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Tag Archives: the Isthmian Games

The Conqueror’s Crown of Glory

As a former coach for nearly two decades, there are numerous ways to motivate athletes. Some respond to food, others want to get their names in the newspaper, and a few do whatever it takes to win. Each of my three children possessed a little bit of these desires. My oldest son James wanted to know what place he needed to get to earn a medal. My middle child Daniel was the best all-around athlete in the family who is most passionate about winning. Meanwhile, my daughter Lydia is easily motivated by deals that I make with her based upon performances. Whatever it takes, set a goal and reward this once achieved.

And [then] when the Chief Shepherd is revealed, you will win the [a]conqueror’s crown of glory, 1 Peter 5:4.

As a former runner, Chariots of Fire was one of my favorite movies in high school. The inspiration behind this title comes from the William Blake poem adapted into the British hymn “Jerusalem.” Chariots of Fire follow two athletes who win gold medals for Great Britain at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. While Harold Abrahams is the more gifted runner, Eric Liddell runs to glorify God through his faith. However, when his best chance to win gold is moved to Sunday, Liddell is able to convince his coach to switch races so that he doesn’t break his vow to keep God’s Sabbath holy, Exodus 20:8.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. 25 Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul is referring to the Isthmian Games that were hosted by the city of Corinth. This ancient Track and Field Event took place in non-Olympic years. After archeologists uncovered remains of Corinthian pubs, it’s likely that many who attended the Isthmian Games would stop by, have a drink, and talk about this sporting event. Appealing to Corinth’s rich sports history, Paul wants to remind his readers of the Conqueror’s Crown of Glory. Since only three contestant’s win a medal, live your life in such a manner that you will receive an eternal crown that will last. This should be your ultimate goal in life, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

Spiritual Aerobics

Aerobics is a vigorous exercise designed to strengthen the heart and lungs. Besides running, swimming and walking which most of you can do by yourself at home or in your neighborhood, there are an unlimited supply of videos on aerobics. Whether you follow along to a workout video or you tube, there are numerous ways to get back into and stay in shape. However, if you keep putting this off day after day, you’ll lose all motivation for physical exercise.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. 25 Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither. 26 Therefore I do not run uncertainly (without definite aim). I do not box like one beating the air and striking without an adversary. But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit], 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

The apostle Paul introduces readers to the concept of spiritual aerobics. Using the host city of the Isthmian Games as a backdrop, a prestigious track and field event held during the off years of the Olympics, Paul references the strict training of these athletes. Spiritual aerobics is designed to strengthen your heart, soul and mind. Whether you’re reading the Bible, praying or participating in a worship service, these exercises energize your spiritual life.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God, Hebrews 12:1-12.

The author of Hebrews takes spiritual aerobics to the next level, comparing this to running a marathon. I once ran 15 miles in an afternoon training for my senior year of cross country in high school. While one of my teammates easily cruised through the final few miles, I struggled to finish as my legs got heavier and heavier with each stride. The key to spiritual aerobics is unloading and throwing off anything that is holding you back or slowing you down. Instead of dreading the race called life, keep your head up and fix your eyes on Jesus so you will find the strength to make it to the finish line.

by Jay Mankus

What’s Holding You Back?

During my final year of coaching cross country, I started having my runners wear weights once or twice a week. Since I ran warm ups and cool downs with my junior high team, I also wore weights as well to see how it felt. Early on, you couldn’t tell much of a difference, but as practice wore on the harder it became to lift your legs. Although the 2.1 mile course I designed wasn’t hilly, the final .25 miles was all up hill. A perfect test for wearing weights despite complaining and whining runners at the end of practice.

You were running the race nobly. Who has interfered in (hindered and stopped you from) your heeding and following the Truth? – Galatians 5:7

First century authors of the Bible use a series of analogies comparing life to running. This is likely due to the Isthmian Games, named after the Isthmus of Corinth. This event took place the year before and year after the Olympic Games. Since the Olympics were held only once every four years, the Pythian Games were held in the third year to complete the Olympiad cycle. In the passage above, the apostle Paul received news that Christians in Galatia were struggling likely due to the Judaizers, a religious sect who hindered their spiritual development.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

Meanwhile, the author of Hebrews compares a faith journey to running a marathon. Typically, 26.1 miles, this distance requires extensive training just to compete and finish. When I was in the best shape of my life, I once tried to run 15 miles. Running with a friend from high school, he left me in the dust as I struggled to breathe the final five miles. This one experience makes me painfully aware of what Hebrews 12:1 is suggesting. In order to make it across the finish line, heaven, you need to start throwing aside any unnecessary weights. The more you discard now, the easier the homestretch will become in the future.

by Jay Mankus

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