Pursuing Excellence

It has now been a couple of months since the London Olympics, and, with college and pro football in full swing and the baseball playoffs underway, it would be easy for the Games to slip quietly into the darker, less-visited places of our memories. However, when I was told that “excellence” would the subject of this weekend’s Sports Spectrum broadcast, my mind immediately retreated to the extraordinary level of excellence that was seen in so many different arenas: Michael Phelps setting a record for the most medals ever by an Olympian was remarkable. So too was Gabby Douglas who, at the tender age of 16, was the first Olympian ever to win gold in both the individual and team all-around gymnastic competitions. The USA men’s and women’s basketball teams were amazing to watch, as was the US women’s soccer team. And that’s just the excellence put on display by a small handful of American winners. Excellence was also on display as Mo Farah of England won double gold in distance running, Im Dong-Hyun of South Korea struck gold in archery, and Stephen Kiprotich won Uganda’s only medal of the competition by capturing the coveted marathon run. Everywhere you looked, excellence was displayed.

But at what cost? What is the price tag attached to excellence? When I ask that, I am not thinking in terms of dollars and cents, though that is obviously a high cost. I’m thinking of commitment. The amount of commitment necessary to excel at that level of sport is daunting to say the least, and mind-boggling to say the most. No one makes it to the Olympics—let alone the medal stand—without a level of commitment that might easily shame the rest of us. Excellence cannot be pursued without commitment. And that is the cost of those medals.

My question, more to myself than to anyone else, is this: How does my commitment to my Savior match up? It is stirring and inspirational to see what these athletes will go through to represent their countries. But what is my commitment level for the matchless task of representing Christ? Paul wrote:

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:20).

What a privilege! As ambassadors for Christ, we have the opportunity to show Him to the world and share His message of grace and forgiveness, knowing that there are eternal issues at stake. I wonder what level of sacrifice, preparation, and commitment I am truly willing to invest in this most noble privilege. I wonder to what degree I am accurately and honorably representing Him, so that people are drawn to the life He offers. I wonder how much my heart represents His heart and concern for the marginalized and disenfranchised.

I know that if I am to pursue excellence as an ambassador for Christ, it will require commitment. For that race, commitment is not the finish line—it is the starting block.

 

Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain