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2016 Olympics: 3 Lessons from the Games in Rio

Aug 16, 2016

Are you an Olympics fan?

The Olympics have a power to pull in even those people who wouldn’t consider themselves sports fans. Maybe it is the compelling story lines or the patriotism. Maybe it’s the intrigue of seeing if anyone will get sick from the green swimming pools. (I know some of you twisted people were thinking this!)

Every four years, numerous compelling story lines emerge which become iconic moments. Due to the wonders of modern technology, these moments go beyond the event and become viral, shared thousands or even millions of time online.

Over the last few days, three of these moments have captured my attention and caused me to ponder about my life and experience. I think you might be able to these Olympic lessons too!

3 Lessons from the 2016 Olympics in Rio

1. Falling down doesn’t equal failure.

During the 10K men’s final, British runner Mo Farah fell down. However, despite his tumble mid-race, he stood up and finished the race. He not only finished the race – he won the race and a gold medal! You can watch the video here.

I first saw the video on Facebook when my friend Warren shared it with the caption, “Just because you fall doesn’t mean you can’t finish.”

We’ve all experienced a “fall.” For some of us, it was a stumble. For others, we faceplanted with serious injury and loss. The thing which separates us is not whether we fall, but what we do after we fall. Those who get back up and finish the race with perseverance are different people than they were when the race began.

Falling down isn’t failure. It doesn’t make us worth less as a person, nor does falling down become the sum total of who we are. Yet, some of us stay down after falling. When we refuse to get back up, we not only give up on success, we always miss out on the change which comes as we overcome. If you’ve fallen down, I hope Mo’s story motivates you to keep running today!

2. What God says about me is the truest thing about me.

David Boudia and Steele Johnson won the silver medal in Men’s Synchronized 10m Platform Diving. After their final dive, they shared similar responses to what they said to the media after they qualified for the Olympics earlier this year. You can watch the video here.

Both divers acknowledged their appreciation and gratitude for success and opportunity to represent their country. However, they quickly made it clear that their achievement was not the place they rooted their identity. They described how their identity was rooted in Jesus Christ and his unconditional love for them. While some might make this comment when they are struggling, these two chose this response at the pinnacle of their success.

Since I shared a recent sermon on identity, I had multiple people texting me the night of this interview. They said, “Did you send your sermon to Rio?!” My main idea in that talk was “what God says about you is the truest thing about you.”

I’ve yet to meet a person who never struggles with who they are. Whether it is a gold medal, a promotion at work, the performance of our kids, or our status in the eyes of our friends, how many of us can say what Boudia and Johnsaon said? Rooting our identity in a healthy, life-giving place is a pursuit we can all embrace. Our identity isn’t in the success we’re pursuing, but in who God says we are.

3. Success doesn’t always lead to fulfillment.

The continued success of Michael Phelps has been one of the most popular subjects of the 2016 Olympics. Phelps secured his 23rd gold medal and his 28th overall medal in what might have been his final Olympic race. However it wasn’t his performance which moved me most. It was a video piece created by ESPN before the Olympics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=896&v=BVgTYmBMBD8

Phelps hit rock bottom after international success and universal acclaim. He had it all and yet, he locked himself in his bedroom for 5 days and contemplated suicide. He learned success doesn’t always lead to fulfillment. It was a courageous friend in Ray Lewis, a book by Rick Warren and an extended stay in a treatment facility which transformed him a person.

Phelps saw his idols crumble before him. In his book, Counterfeit Gods, author Tim Keller describes an idol as “anything we look to for what only God can give.” Phelps discovered his idols failed to deliver on their promises, with disastrous results. I found myself cheering for Phelps even more passionately this year than I have in previous years.

While success doesn’t always lead to fulfillment, success always reveals who we are. Many of us who long for success may not want it when we find our flaws, weaknesses and demons exposed. However, when we’re willing to do the tough internal work Phelps did, we can become the kind of people who experience success without it destroying us. Success isn’t a bad thing, but it won’t complete, permanently satisfy or ultimately fulfill us. It’s a good thing, but not a God-thing.

The Power of the Olympics

Amidst Zika, inadequate facilities in Olympic Village, and doping scandals, the 2016 Olympics in Rio have produce shining moments and powerful lessons. Whenever humans give themselves wholeheartedly into preparing for competition – especially one which only occurs every four years, the results are sure to astound, bewilder and capture our imagination.

I’d love to hear from you. What has been your favorite moment from these Olympics? Share below in the comments or wherever you found this article on social media.

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