I”M just like most of you. I follow the summer Olympic games occasionally. I may drop in on the coverage when I’m interested in a particular sport or a competitor. This year my favorite is the spectacular gymnast, Simone Biles. Her story is amazing, and her talent is indescribable.

Simone Biles poses with her gold medal after USA won gold the women's team final in Rio de Janeiro on August 9, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Mike Blake *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-OLYMPICS-BILES, originally transmitted on August 10, 2016.

Simone Biles poses with her gold medal after USA won gold the women’s team final in Rio de Janeiro on August 9, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Mike Blake

     Then today I was studying a scripture, 1st Corinthians Chapter 9, verse 25. It goes like this: Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Not to diminish in any way my respect for the dedication these olympic athletes have for excellence in their sport, but the Bible passage made me think like this:

“What olympic champions from the past do I remember? Mohammed Ali, Jesse Owens, Mark Spitz and for some reason Jim Ryun who won a silver medal in 1968 in the 1,500 meter.”

There are thousands of great athletes who won medals in the modern olympic games, but their names have vanished from our memories like yesterday’s clouds. Even in the lives of these medalists, the significance of their athletic achievements diminishes over time as other priorities overcome the moments of glory they had experienced. Elite athletes have devoted unimaginable amounts of time, energy, money and travel, often sacrificing many of life’s joys, to attain the levels of achievement they have reached. But the cost after retirement is often overwhelming.

Britain’s double Olympic rowing champion James Cracknell stated, “I think people suffer from depression after retiring from sport because they aren’t sure where to apply that focus…there is a lot of focus and a lot of selfishness in sportsmen.” Athletes often cannot see their lives following another career path and as soon as the dreaded retirement looms, with this, brings a void that the comfort of a training routine once filled.

The cases of severe depression in elite athletes after retirement is well documented. Multiple Olympic swimming champion Ian Thorpe, Celtic FC Manager Neil Lennon and double Olympic Champion Dame Kelly Holmes are just a few of the high profile athletes who have made their depression public after their retirement from professional sport. Andrew Flintoff, Paul Gascoigne and Frank Bruno are a further few who have been afflicted by the illness and have been open and willing to share their issues to help raise the profile of depression in athletic retirement.  (From: http://believeperform.com/wellbeing/life-after-sport-depression-in-retired-athletes/)

But the prize that apostle Saint Paul writes about in 1st Corinthian is not a visible one. It is not a prize of this world. It is not presented at a victory celebration in front of crowds or on TV. It is not a crown that is attained by spectacular physical greatness or intellectual achievement.

The crown that Christian followers receive is a spiritual one, an invisible one, that resides deep in the believer’s heart. It comes from this kind of discipline: “they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control…” (1st Corinthians 9:25-27).

So to my favorite olympic hero for 2016, Simone Biles, I offer my deepest admiration and respect, and I pray that her spectacular success, born out of very humble and challenging beginnings, will launch her to a life filled with prosperity, good health and most of all a beautiful life in the Spirit.

And to all of you who are reading this note, I encourage you to continue to be aware of the grace that our LORD wants you to have to motivate you to enjoy the disciplined life that will result in a crown that will never fade.

—TQ