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Friday, July 27, 2012

Glorifying God at The Olympic Games

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After being carried over 8,000 miles by more than 8,000 torch bearers through 1,000 towns and villages*, the Olympic flame will be lite tonight, signifying the start to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Athletes  from around the world have trained, sacrificed and given everything they have to gain the opportunity to be apart of the next 16-days of history-in-the-making.
But for some of these athletes, the games are about more than personal achievement. They are about more than obtaining Olympic glory. They are about God's glory and revealing that glory to the world through the talents He has graciously given them. Here are just a few of the courageous men and women representing the USA:

Dawn Harper
Dawn Harper - Track & field (Hurdles)
After knee surgery during her sophomore year of high school, doctors told her she would never run as fast as she used to. She not only fully recovered, but went on to preform one of the biggest upsets in recent track & field history.
“From this big ol’ globe, God chose this little girl from East St. Louis out of all the kids who have said, ‘I want to go to the Olympics,’” Harper says. “He knew that I could handle this—the knee surgery and all of the things that come with being an Olympic champion. He took the girl that no one thought would win. He chose me. He entrusted me with this.”
Kevin Durant - Men's Basketball
As one of the top five players in the NBA (and now apart of the men’s Olympic basketball team), it would be very easy for Kevin to become arrogant and prideful. However, he recognizes these traps and strives to live a life of humility as stated in Matthew 23:12, “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
“I always kind of pinch myself and say that any day this can be gone. When people tell me I’m great, I [remind myself that I] can always be better. I always work on what I have now. I’ve got to be thankful to the Lord for the gifts He’s given me. My gift back to Him is to always be humble and to always try to work as hard as I can.”

Brady Ellison - Archery
Brady, hunter turned Olympian, is representing the USA in archery. It is his goal only to be used by God for HIS glory. He lives out Phillipans 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” by doing his best, not worrying about the score and leaving the outcome to God.
“Once I put winning in God’s hands, I stopped worrying about it. Since then, I’ve gone to these tournaments and I’ve shot with no fear, doing only the best I can do and leaving the rest up to God.”

Kendrick Farris - Weightlifting
Sometimes, life takes a detour and we forget about childhood dreams. That’s what happened to Kendrick who put his Olympic dreams on a shelf until God used a co-worker to remind him that he was created to be a weightlifter. This year he has made the Olympic team and God is blessing him with the desires of his heart.
“I’ve truly humbled myself over the past couple of years and I’ve learned about the power we have as Christians. Jesus said we would do greater works and I believe that.”

Brittany Viola - Diving (Platform)
Brittany sort of “fell” into the sport of diving while trying some gymnastic moves at her local pool. A coach spotted her and recognized her talent. However, her road to London has been paved with hardship and struggles, failing to qualify in 2004 and barely making the team in 2008. She has also had a personal struggle with the eating disorder, bulimia. But like many of life’s painful times, her struggle with bulimia has deepened her relationship with her Heavenly Father.
“As I struggled with my eating disorder, I would be reminded that God still loved me even when I did not love myself. His forgiveness helped me to forgive myself. His truth allowed me to replace the many lies in my head. He saw me as fearfully and wonderfully made—His perfect creation, chosen, holy and dearly loved.”

Tobin Heath - Women's Soccer

Tobin is no stranger to the games. She was apart of the women’s soccer team four years ago in China (they won the gold!). This time her goal is more than winning. It’s about sharing Jesus’ love.

“It’s not about that worldly outcome in terms of winning or losing,” she explains. “It’s about Jesus being known—not in a way that forces it upon other people, but in a way that lets people know how He’s transformed my life and how He’s given me purpose and meaning and love and satisfaction.”

Bryan Clay - Track & Field (Decathlon)

Bryan is also a returning gold medalist. He doesn’t attribute his success to hard work, long hours training or any self sacrifice (although all of those things go into making an Olympian). He says it’s his faith that has lead to his success.

“Without my faith, I think it would be very easy for me to have a family that’s in disarray, to have my priorities out of order, to make decisions that could derail my path to success. But because I have this foundation of faith, I like to believe that it’s my compass. It keeps me on the path that I want to be on. It allows me to make good decisions that bear good results. Without my faith, I think that I’d be lost and I don’t think that I’d be as successful as I am today.”

Ryan Hall - Track & Field (Marathon)

“For though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again” Proverbs 24:16 This verse has given hope to Ryan Hall, the fastest American-born marathon runner. Although he hasn’t achieve a high profile status as an Olympian (yet), he doesn’t choose to see his success in medals, but rather in the ability to get back up and try again.

“I have found that it’s not the ability to never fail that makes an Olympian, but the ability to get back up. I have found that the ability to get back up comes from my ability to stay close to God and to see myself as He sees me,” Hall says. “God has always given me the grace and strength to get back up after I have fallen. I have found that He has given me everything I need to accomplish what He has created me to be and to do.”

Jonathon Horton - Men's Gymnastics
Two-time Olympic medalist, Jonathon returns to the Games in London after enduring one of the biggest tests to his faith. For the past year, he has been recovering from torn ligament and two broken bones.
“Without my faith, I think I would be panicking,” Horton says. “But sometimes I think that this could be a blessing in disguise. This could be something He’s put in front of me to see how strong my faith really is. Sometimes I question if this was really necessary, but then I realize that this is God’s plan and I have to overcome it and keep my faith in God. His plan is always greater than my plan.”

Jesse Williams - Track & Field (High Jump)
Being a world class athlete involves international travel which can become very lonely. However, Jesse doesn’t allow those moments to overcome him. He knows God has a greater plan for him, finding comfort and peace in the Word of God.
“I know that God has a plan for me and no matter how many times I fail I know its in Gods plan,” he explains. “I never let myself get down when I have a bad performance. I use it as inspiration to work harder. I always fall back on the Word when I am feeling lonely or when something is not going well.”

Tamika Catching - Women's Basketball

Tamika is returning to the Games for her 3rd time as part of the women’s basketball team. Although she has found success in the sport, she has faced both physical an emotional struggles off the court.
“God has taught me about patience and about accepting myself for who I am and knowing that He formed me and made me unique,” she states. “He made everyone uniquely wonderful. Every single cell, every single muscle, every single thing about my body, He created and He formed—even my personality. I never thought I’d be able to speak in front of hundreds of people and have a story and a testimony. I’m extremely blessed to have all of these opportunities.”
Missy Franklin - Swimming
Missy has been swimming since she was only six months old. Now at the age of 17, she is a world champion and Olympic contender. She realizes that God has placed her as a mentor for other young athletes and she doesn’t take that role lightly.
“God is always there for me. I talk with Him before, during and after practice and competitions,” the Pasadena, Calif., native says. “I pray to Him for guidance. I thank Him for this talent He has given me and I’ve promised him that I will be a positive role model for young athletes in all sports.”
So as the flame burns in Olympic park, let us pray that God’s light will shine brightly through the athletes who long to bring Him glory.

Dear Father,
We pray for these men and women as they compete. We ask for your protection on them. Keep them healthy and safe. Whether they or lose, we pray that you would be glorified through their words and actions. We thank you for the talents you have given to each of us. May we too strive to present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to You.
In your Holy name,
Go USA!!!
*You can read more about these athletes at CharismaMagazine.


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