Every four years the Winter Olympics roll around, and every time I see them, this memory keeps flashing back in my brain. I’m not sure which looms larger to me, the Olympic memory or the lesson I learned from it.
I remember it was a February, some years ago. The Winter Olympics were going on in Europe that year. But they just…well, they just weren’t on my radar. I didn’t much care; I was just too busy at the time. But something happened on the afternoon I had the TV on in my room as I was getting dressed for a meeting. Oh, the commentary was going on as usual, until the announcer spoke a name that I recognized.
In high school, she was active in one of the Christian campus clubs I attended. It was there she had heard about Jesus, and she eventually made a personal commitment to Him. I hadn’t seen or heard about her since she was in high school, until that afternoon. And there she was, an Olympic ice skater, representing the U.S.
Now, when I think Winter Olympics, I remember the amazing surprise of seeing what that young woman had become. And actually, I wasn’t totally surprised, because I knew her when the Olympics couldn’t have been more than a distant dream for her… when she was a teenager, paying the price, to be a champion. Every morning of the week, I remember, while her fellow students were still counting Z’s, she was at the local ice rink, practicing, and practicing, and practicing. While her friends were relaxing during summer break, she was in a Colorado training program, working and working.
At one point, this young teenage girl who became an Olympian was in the rink when a tornado hit. She was seriously injured. The roof collapsed. She battled back from that injury to practice and work even harder, every morning at 5:00 A.M.
During those European Olympics, the world saw her in all her Olympic glory. We knew her long before that, and we knew how she got there–through a thousand invisible mornings where she paid the price to be a champion. No one saw her then; no one knew or cared if she was at that rink – but she just kept showing up.
It turns out that the secret of being a “spiritual” champion is pretty much the same – a thousand invisible mornings with Jesus. He set the example by showing up morning after morning to spend time with His Father. Our word for today from the word of God in Mark 3:14 explains that when He called the men He would build His life’s work on, it says, “He appointed twelve, (and here was their job) that they might be with Him.” The first job of a disciple-be with Jesus. It must have worked. When the men who helped crucify Jesus hauled Peter and John in for questioning it says, “…they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13 ).
You can tell when someone’s spent a lot of time with Jesus. There’s something magnetic about them. They have this confidence, this power, this authority, this caring. You see, people become like the people they hang out with, and when you hang out with Jesus, you become more and more like Him.
Why are there so many Christians who have a head full of Jesus, but live such ordinary, even hypocritical lives? Why do so many of us have a roller coaster faith, with occasional glorious highs that punctuate long stretches of this bland mediocrity? Because we won’t pay the price to be a champion.
That price is to make our daily time with Jesus non-negotiable; the anchor of our daily schedule; the “sun” around which all the other “planets” of our life must revolve. Christian meetings and events won’t do it. Great Bible teaching, Christian fellowship, they won’t do it. There simply is no substitute for the love-driven discipline of spending quality time with Jesus yourself. We meet Him in His Book. It’s the love letter that enables us to be with Him now – until we can be really with Him… in heaven.
A vibrant, powerful relationship with Jesus Christ is rooted in those thousand invisible mornings with Jesus. No one will know if you show up, except Jesus. But if you do show up consistently, people will notice the difference and be strangely drawn to the Jesus in you.
He’ll show up tomorrow morning, as He has every morning since you met Him. All you’ve got to do… is be there.