Aging Olympians

August 25, 2016
Volume 20, Number 28

The last medals have been awarded, and the crowds have dispersed.  The 2016 Olympic Games are now history.  Scores of athletes who made the trek to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil with high hopes are now back home with feelings of “If only …”  A few returned home victorious, and will be lauded for years to come.

A few months ago I learned of one former Olympian from several years ago who now occupies a hollow shell of her former self.  At her peak she was known around the world, and adored by millions.  Today she lives in a trailer in a small town in Appalachia, a town sinking in poverty as the coal industry shrivels.

Other former Olympians have seen tarnish accumulate on their awards.  One member of the U.S. Olympic Basketball Dream Team was forced to put his gold medal up for auction.  What would it be like, I wonder, to have to sell something that represents your life’s highest dream?  He’s not the only one who has had to part with his award.

Even Olympians age, and their fortunes are subject to decline.  At their peak we regard them as near-superhuman.  But that is a most fleeting assessment.

The apostle Paul wrote about athletes as a way of stressing higher goals.  He may have had the Isthmian Games (similar to the Olympics) in mind when he wrote these words: “And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.  Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9:25).

The “crown” Paul wrote about is not the type a king might wear, made of gold and encrusted with precious jewels.  He used the Greek word “stephanos“, translated as “wreath” in other Bible versions.  It was the award given to champions in athletic contests, the equivalent of our gold medal (second or third place was not honored).

Note, however, Paul’s stress on “perishable” versus “imperishable”.  As we have seen, the glory fades even for champion Olympians.  Christ offers honors that do not fade.

How it is that spiritual contestants can have hope of something that will not fade or tarnish?  A favorite passage from Isaiah 40:30,31 explains: “Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

We marvel at Michael Phelps, who participated in five Olympic games, and won more medals than any other athlete.  But he is aging, and we likely won’t see him in future games.  Spiritual Olympians, however, will go on and on and on …

Come to the light God offers!  Study His word, the Bible.  Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss these ideas further.


Copyright, 2016, Timothy D. Hall. All scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version (Copyright, 1990, Thomas Nelson, Inc.).

“LightGrams” is produced by the Central Church of Christ, 2722 Oakland Avenue, Johnson City, Tennessee, 37601, and is written by Tim Hall, minister. It is sent free of charge every Thursday to all who request it. To subscribe or to receive more information, write to “” (our E-mail address), to the U.S. mail address above, or call (423) 282-1571.

Permission to reproduce and/or use the messages for noncommercial purposes is freely granted provided the messages are not altered.