The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are finally here. The world has paused to celebrate our love for sports, polish our sportsmanship, and reflect on how we can all possibly get along.
I admire the 11,656 athletes from 206 countries who have come together with one goal—to get the gold. We each have our favorite events: volleyball, swimming, street roller-blading, hockey, gymnastics, and so many others. One event that constantly amazes me is synchronized diving. For this contest two divers in perfect harmony—and so much in sync that TV watchers often do not even see the second diver—leap with elegant grace into the pool.
On July 26, day 3 of the Olympics, viewers watched as pairs of divers took turns at the diving board. Before a worldwide audience, Yuan Cao and Aisen Chen of the People’s Republic of China stood on the 10m diving board. To my absolute admiration the pair turned around, raised their hands above their heads, turned their backs to the Olympic pool, and dove backwards into the water.
In spite of this stunning dive, the gold would go to Great Britain’s Thomas Daley and Matty Lee, who, in a beautiful feat of synchronization and absolutely impeccable diving, would beat China by 1.23 points.
I am amazed at the idea of the synchronized diving, the sheer beauty of it. But I am even more stunned at the backward dive, and I thought of all the dreadful things that could have gone wrong. Diving into a pool that an athlete can see is one thing, but diving into water that a diver cannot see takes a huge leap of faith. Could I ever be so brave? So dauntless? So trusting? In anything?
In Genesis 12:1, God told Abraham to leave his home, his friends, his comfort zone, and go to a place that God would show him. So, Abraham packed up his household and taking a leap of faith, he jumped into the unknown. Then when God promised him a son in his old age—when he was 100 years old, wrinkled, tired—he leaped again, against all human physical possibilities, and by faith he became the father of the promised child and progenitor of a great nation (Gen. 17).
When you come to these formidable Red Seas, these impregnable mountains, your Olympic springboards, take God at His word.
Abraham’s Olympics did not stop there. The ultimate challenge came when God asked him to take that same beloved promised son and sacrifice him on an altar. In Genesis 22, Moses relates the narrative: Following God’s command, Abraham took the cherished child, his servants, the wood, the fire, and the knife, and he set off one more time to fulfill God’s command. How painful every step must have been! How difficult to answer the child’s question, “Father . . . where is the lamb?” (verse 7, KJV). And how much faith it must have taken for Abraham to respond truthfully, “God will provide himself a lamb” (verse 8, KJV).
Think of the father’s pain as he trusted God, raising his trembling hand to slay his son on the altar, and the joy when God ordered him, “Do not lay a hand on the boy. . . . Now I know that you fear God” (verse 12, NIV). The heavenly messenger continued, “Because . . . you have not withheld your son, your only son . . . I will surely bless you” (verses 16, 17, NIV).1 How sweet must have been that return trip as Abraham and Isaac realized they had accomplished the impossible and that they had won the victor’s crown!
Olympian Feats of Courage
The stories of the patriarchs abound in such experiences of faith, of Olympian feats of courage, of bravely taking God at His word. There is even a Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11 for these champions of faith. Here are some of the heroes: Noah, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Rahab, Joseph, Moses, all recognized as victors who took leaps of faith and came away with the prize, God’s seal of approval.
You, my friend, are taking part in your own Olympics, your own race for the ultimate prize—heaven at last. You compete with no one except yourself, for you are seeking the victor’s crown, the stephanos. For this crown, you do not need to have the most skillful dives. You just need to faithfully complete them all.
You are in the battle to win when temptations and challenges threaten to overwhelm you and you cry out, “There’s no way I can get through this. It’s just too much to handle” (this problem, this job, these kids, etc.). “I can’t take it anymore.” And the classic “I give up!” with rolled eyes conceding defeat. Sometimes silent tears fall, showing in their slow drip down wet cheeks what words dare not say.
When you come to these formidable Red Seas, these impregnable mountains, your Olympic springboards, take God at His word. He has said in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you” (NKJV).2 God also promised, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but will with the temptation also make a way of escape that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13, NKJV).
Remember that Jesus is your biggest cheerleader. He wants you to win, and your victor’s crown, your stephanos, blinks ahead.
So step on the diving board of life, balance yourself in His Word, turn your back to the problem, and, trusting in God to keep His promises, take a leap of faith.
Retired English teacher Annette Walwyn Michael is a member of the Central Seventh-day Adventist Church in St. Croix, United States Virgin Islands.
1 Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
2 Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.