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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 14 comments

In honor of what would have been her birthday here on earth, I wanted to re-share the story of one who finished strong.

Photo courtesy of  caregivingclub.com

Growing up, I can remember wanting to be an Olympian. Every 4 years when the Olympics rolled around my sisters and I would set up our own "games." (As a parent, I shudder to think of the 2x4 lying precariously between two ladders, which served as our "balance beam." It even had a door knob hole cut out of it!) At the root of it all, I think I just wanted to be really good at something, and an Olympic athlete symbolized the best of the best. 

In my previous post we learned (from a lecture given by Ray Vander Laan) that the Olympic Games accompanied the emperor Domitian's declaration that he was god; and we saw how John structured the Book of Revelation to parallel these ancient games. 

Photo courtesy of openlettersmonthly.com
It sounds to me like this Domitian, who considered himself a god, was quite a piece of work. He was an out of shape, couch potato-type guy, and not what you would consider good looking either. Yet interestingly, the older he became and the worse he looked, the younger and more virile his image was portrayed in statues and coins.  Hmmmm.

It's unlikely that Domitian ever ran a race himself, yet he would kill athletes who didn’t perform to his satisfaction.  

KILL them.

What a contrast he is to Jesus! Jesus really was God, yet He doesn't call us to run a race He hasn't already run. We deserved death, yet He died in our place to pay for our sins. 

"Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us." ~ Hebrews 12:1

If those Domitian called to run a race were Olympians, doesn't it stand to reason that those whom the One True God calls to run the race would be the true Olympians?


Now think about how hard you would train if you were chosen to participate in the Olympic Games.  Wouldn't you give everything you had?  You certainly wouldn’t quit before you reached the finish line.  So why do we do that in the Christian faith?  We're competing for God's team! Christianity isn’t a stroll in the park or a day at the beach.  We should be flat out, all out, all the time! So why is it that we so often coast? 

God doesn’t ask that you win the race. If He called us to win, there would only be one winner and it would probably not be me. Or you, for that matter. What God asks is that you to finish the race!  He calls you to run with perseverance the race mapped out for you.  Do you want to stand in front of God one day and admit to him that you didn’t give it all?  We need to make Jesus the center of everything we do, all the time!  God wants us to run with intensity!  He doesn’t want joggers, He doesn’t want us to merely run for a while, He wants us to finish, and finish strong!

Hebrews 11 lists the great heroes of the faith, and chapter 12 begins, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.”  The Greek word nephos describes clouds in the sky, but back in that day in was also used to describe the highest seats in the bleachers of a stadium because they were so far up from the ground. This gives us a picture of a stadium whose bleachers are filled to the brim with people who have run the race before us. 

“Never again will they hunger, never again will they thirst.  The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  ~ Revelation 7:16-17

Last week, Bob's Aunt Sue took her place in the stadium. To me, she is the epitome of finishing strong. Though she battled Multiple Sclerosis for over thirty years and was well-acquainted with life in a wheelchair, she seemed anything but confined. She was fun-loving, spunky and had a wonderful sense of humor. Most of all, she loved Jesus and introduced Him to everyone she encountered. It may sound odd to say she went to be with her Jesus, that is unless you knew her. Then it would make perfect sense because He was such a big part of her life and she was so intimately acquainted with Him. Her sentences were punctuated with "Thank you Jesus!" and you could tell that she wasn't talking to you, she was talking to Him, praising Him for even the smallest things.

We heard last Tuesday evening that she was moving to a local hospice, so Bob stopped by Wednesday morning to see her. When he saw the empty room, he knew what that meant. Heartbroken, he asked God for something. He didn't know what, just something. As he went to leave the hospice, this is what he saw:

At the funeral today, before Bob had the opportunity to share this photo with anyone, the pastor said he could picture Sue, with her hands held up to meet her Jesus.

These words from Rick Renner could have been written about Aunt Sue. Perhaps they describe someone you know as well: "She faced the impossible, she accomplished the unthinkable, and she stands as proof that you can make it too. As a witness, she's watching and cheering you on to victory! Just listen with the ears of faith, and you’ll hear her saying, “Go for it! You can do it! Your faith will carry you through!” 

Jesus, we are so thankful that through you we have forgivess and that this life is not all there is to our existence. Thank you for the assurance that You will wipe away every tear from our eyes and restore the years the locust ate. Thank you for healing and wholeness, rest and restoration, and the picture of those we love cheering us on as we run the race marked out for us. May we all run hard and finish strong.


14 Responses so far.

  1. Lisa - I am so sorry about the lost of your Aunt Sue - what a soaring story, though - a champion lifted into heaven. I love history lessons - and how you put Olympic history into context! I wanted to be an Olympic swimmer! So glad we serve a God who loves us instead of uses us in horrible ways!

  2. Wow, this is great post! Thank you for sharing with us here at "Tell Me a Story." It reminds us that we all are running a race and will each one receive a victors crown. Sorry about your Aunt Sue, and although she will be missed, she is with Jesus. The photo is amazing.

  3. Lisa, I lost a close personal friend the last week in January. This post and the Scriptures you shared resonated with me today. Thank you for sharing. May God comfort your family as you remember Aunt Sue. Blessings

  4. Anonymous says:

    I clicked on your link because the picture you posted caught my eye as I finished up reading Jen Ferguson's blog. What you have shared is noble, excellent, and praise worthy! Many thanks for the inspiration to persevere! Chris

  5. Wow! God is near to the broken-hearted, and he cares. Gives me chills!

  6. Helene says:

    I love your Olympian parallel. It fits Hebrews 11 so perfectly! And such an encouragement to the grieving.

  7. May God comfort you in this time of loss.

    I really enjoyed your post about the Olympians. It struck me how the depictions of Domitian grew more "manly" as he grew less so. How often are our perspectives of ourself so different than reality. And we really want people to see us as better than we are.

    And I never knew that Revelation was ordered after the fashion of the games! I enjoyed learning :) Thank you for the posts.

    BTW- I'm stopping by via the R&R linky party :) Blessings!

  8. Christa says:

    Sorry for your loss, but by what you've said you know she is in Heaven with Jesus and happy and more complete that she could ever have been her.

    I also want to say I love love love this comparison of our walk in Christ [I guess run may be more appropriate :) ] to the Olympics. This is an inspiration for a Bible study next time the Olympics come around. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Carol says:

    Beautiful post! We chose the same passages of scripture in our comments about the games. It is inspiring to read about your Aunt Sue--and to see the photo.

    The connection between the Roman games and Revelation is new to me--interesting.
    Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog.

  10. Nancy W says:

    So sorry for your loss but I love the analogy. Thanks you for sharing your post on the HomeAcre Hop! Hope to see you again tomorrow> Nancy The Home Acre Hop

  11. Such an inspiring post! And the photo is just amazing, as well as the story of your aunt Sue. Thanks for sharing a wonderful message of faith.

  12. I'm sorry about your aunt; thank you for sharing that, and for the history of the Olympics as well.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Such a beautiful tribute. I will look forward to meeting her one day when we are all home with our Lord.

  14. Unknown says:

    Such a glowing tribute befitting a soaring eagle...ptl

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