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"Lord, I don't ask that I should win, but please, please don't let me finish behind Akabusi."

Innocent Egbunike's prayer at the 1988 Olympics

The Prize

The prize I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – but not to me only but to all those who have longed for his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7,8

The Scottish swimmer stood on the rostrum, gold medal round her neck. As “Flower of Scotland” rang out around the pool she sang heartily. Then in a moment captured on the big screen, the emotion got to her. She could no longer sing. There was tear in her eye as – I guess – the enormity of the moment got to her.

This was her reward not just for 2 minutes in the pool today but for all those hours of swimming endless lengths of a lonely swimming pool. Of 5.00am alarms to get to the pool before it opened to the public. The faithfulness of putting in the work when only you know if you are shirking. How richly she deserved her reward.

Paul remind us that there is a day coming when we will stand on that heavenly rostrum and get our reward – not a reward that we have earned by our efforts or our own righteousness. No, ours is a reward based on what Jesus has done for us.

Only one swimmer gets the Commonwealth Games gold medal but the heavenly reward is for “all those who have longed for Christ’s appearing”.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t find it easy to be a Christian. It is a battle. As I struggle to keep the faith and to finish the race, the prospect of the crown of righteousness is a massive encouragement.

Just as many an athlete has been motivated at 5.00am on a winter morning to get out of bed and into the pool by the prospect of the gold medal, so let us be motivated to be faithful today but the promise of what a loving father has prepared for us – and it’s OK to have a tear in your eye as you think about it.

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