On this day in 1896, the Olympic Games were reinstituted after a 1500 year hiatus. Held in Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics, King George I welcomed 60,000 spectators and an estimated 250 athletes from 14 countries to the international games. The original Olympics were held in honor of Zeus, the Greek king of the gods. Beginning in 776 B.C., the Olympic games were held every four years. Over the centuries, the Olympics degenerated into a pagan party with men competing in the nude, women prostituting themselves at the games, and the general populace worshiping idols. Finally, in 393 A.D, the Christian Roman Emperor, Theodosius I, outlawed the Olympics.
The revived Olympiad in 1896 included track and field, weight lifting, swimming, target shooting, cycling, tennis and gymnastics. All the participants were men, and a few included tourists who happened to stumble upon the event and sign up at the spur of the moment.
Today, Olympic athletes must qualify for their event and many practice rigorously in special training centers. Josh Prenot, a medal-winning swimmer in 2016, would take his first swim at 7 am at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. After that, he stretched, lifted weights and had another 2-hour swimming workout.
Physical training is good, according to the Apostle Paul. But the training of the soul is even more important. Pumping iron, working the treadmill or taking up a sport can strengthen our hearts and tone our bodies. Yet still we die at 70 or 80 years old, and then we begin the long road of eternity.
A church marquee read, “LENT—SPRING TRAINING FOR CHRISTIANS.” Baseball players train hard in the spring for a summer and fall season of 162 games. In a similar vein, Christians train hard in Lent for the game of life. Paul told his protégé Timothy that spiritual training has present and future implications: it holds promise for the present life and for the life to come. Through prayer, study, meditation and self-sacrifice, we can draw ever-nearer to Christ, turning every day into a small “Lent” of exercise for the soul. That way, we won’t be completely out of shape when we finally reach heaven.