As the world watched in awe of Usain Bolt’s second Olympic gold medal and record in the men’s 100m sprint final yesterday, many marvelled at perhaps the greatest athlete they had seen. I couldn’t help noticing the sign of the cross and the finger pointed upward at the start line, as if to say, “It’s all about Him”, but ten seconds later, the gesturing and antics were communicating, “It’s all about me”!
Few would deny the right of a champion to relish the adulation of the crowd and perhaps only the most stoic (or jealous) would demand humility in the moment of Bolt’s dominance. Any of us could similarly think of incidents in which we have also glowed in the recognition of others (if not some self-appreciation). But consider what Bolt’s excellence gives back to his sport and to those who follow it. Consider the role-modelling of someone who is able to inspire others to rise to great heights. My son’s athletics club saw unprecedented enrolments (including his) after the last Olympic Games, with the majority of the 600 sign-ups undoubtedly induced, in part at least, by Bolt’s Beijing win.
I likewise want my life to inspire my kids and all those who look on to see whether my passion and commitment to excellence are worth following. I may not have achieved the status of a Usain Bolt in the eyes of any onlookers, but I want people to be drawn to the values for which I stand. I think of the Apostle Paul who encouraged the earliest Christians to follow Him as He followed Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1) and who also bemoaned the lack of father figures through whom they could be mentored (1 Corinthians 4:15).
But let’s have no false or misplaced motivation in our leading. We want to excel, not just for others, but for the joy of doing what we were placed on this earth to do. I want to excel to honour God with a 100% effort since He has gifted me for a purpose. A previous generation’s Olympic hero, Eric Liddell, who was celebrated in the movie Chariots of Fire, said it well, “And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”