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Going for Gold

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With the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Feb. 12, the 2010 Winter Olympics officially began.

Over a period of 17 days, an estimated 5,500 athletes and officials representing over 80 countries participated in a frenzied schedule of sporting events ranging from skiing to figure skating. Much of the world's attention was focused on the Winter Games. In fact, organizers estimated that worldwide an incredible 3.5 billion television viewers tuned into the Games.

For most athletes, winning an Olympic gold medal represents the pinnacle of success in their sport. "Going for gold" is a recurring theme leading up to and throughout Olympic competition. Athletes, along with coaches, parents and trainers, push toward the Olympics with enthusiasm, energy and determination to succeed.

This intensity is matched by corporate sponsors who pour millions of dollars into advertising and media hype designed to cash in on the popularity of the Olympic Games.

While so much attention was directed to the events in Vancouver, other zealous, dedicated individuals across the globe remain engaged in a far more significant cause. These hearty participants, largely ignored by the global media, are hard at work training, practicing and preparing for the ultimate goal in life. These "athletes"—scattered in cities and countries worldwide—are busily practicing their calling, developing and honing their skills and responding to the advice and guidance of their "Coach."

Who are these unknown athletes? They are Christians following their Captain's admonition, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33 Matthew 6:33But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.
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).

Raising the Bar

The Amplified Bible expounds that Jesus Christ was telling Christians to "aim at and strive after" the Kingdom of God and God's righteousness. Just as athletes preparing for the Olympics make "going for gold" their motto and focus, Christians are expected to passionately seek both the Kingdom and God's righteousness.

Seeking the Kingdom of God, while a lofty and important goal, is not sufficient by itself. Many often overlook the second aspect. Christ, in the role of coach and captain, encourages His followers to make developing God's righteousness—His righteous character—a definitive, purposeful way of life.

In a world of tolerance, it has become commonplace to dismiss any notion of a right and a wrong way of living. Yet Christ is clear in His expectation that righteousness be front and center for His followers.

A Standard of Excellence

God's righteousness is not a mythical, elusive goal. Rather, it is a clear, straightforward way of living that leads to the Kingdom of God.

This standard of excellence is provided in the Coach's manual for Christians—the Bible. The apostle Paul reminded his young apprentice Timothy, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:16 2 Timothy 3:16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
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). The Bible is a how-to book for those seeking righteousness.

The rules and guidelines provided by our Creator are designed to equip mankind with the tools, abilities and knowledge to reflect righteousness in our daily behavior (2 Timothy 3:17 2 Timothy 3:17That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works.
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). The law of God is the standard for right living.

At its core, God's righteousness is centered on an outgoing concern for others. Jesus summarized God's law as a directive to love God and fellow man (Matthew 22:37-39 Matthew 22:37-39 [37] Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. [38] This is the first and great commandment. [39] And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
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). For example, Christians are encouraged to be "doers of the word" by providing care and concern for individuals such as widows and orphans in need (James 1:22 James 1:22But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
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, 27).

God's way of living produces fantastic results. Some of these fruits include "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 [22] But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, [23] Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
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). Imagine a world where this type of conduct was the norm! Why not learn to apply these principles now?

Going for Gold

On their quest for Olympic gold, athletes invest countless hours in preparation. Team members commit to a disciplined regimen of practice and training lasting weeks and even years in pursuit of a gold medal. Most events in the Winter Games require stamina, agility, strength, poise and drive. These attributes do not appear suddenly—even for the most gifted participants. The path to victory is not one for a casual, laid-back athlete.

Rarely do athletes express an interest in "shooting for silver"—they're determined to "go for gold!" This attitude reflects the biblical principle that "whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might" (Ecclesiastes 9:10 Ecclesiastes 9:10Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, where you go.
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). Those who aspire to fulfill Christ's command to seek the Kingdom and God's righteousness will be fully committed to the task.

Paul also compared sports to the life of a Christian. "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?" Developing God's righteous character is not for the faint of heart. It is a serious commitment. Paul encourages, "Run in such a way that you may obtain it" (1 Corinthians 9:24 1 Corinthians 9:24Know you not that they which run in a race run all, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain.
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).

With a full commitment to the process—seeking it first in life—Christians can develop righteous character. The training regimen includes daily prayer, Bible study and meditation. As Christians, we can "practice" the righteous character of God in our dealings with family, friends, coworkers and strangers.

Seeking God's righteousness is far more important than winning an Olympic medal. Developing righteous character not only improves the quality of life now, it carries with it the promise of eternal life (1 Timothy 4:8 1 Timothy 4:8For bodily exercise profits little: but godliness is profitable to all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
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)!

The 2010 Winter Games came and went. Some athletes achieved victory and were recognized on the world stage for their success. Meanwhile, Christians must be hard at work seeking the ultimate championship—the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. "Go for gold!" You have nothing to lose. UN


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