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The Word on the Week

Sporting Heroes

It simply gets better and better! Imagine a win over England at Cricket – a game scarcely known in Ireland. Indeed the rules had to be described over the national broadcasting service! This was followed up by the best ever result at Cheltenham. With 13 winners, we clocked up the highest number of Irish victories ever. This equalled England’s total with far fewer horses at the races. Then we had our world champion female boxer, Katie Taylor, lead Dublin’s St Patrick’s Day parade. Even our politicians performed well! Despite the fact of only being a week in office they took the White House in Washington by storm, securing the promise of a visit from President Obama to Ireland in May. In exchange for the traditional gift of shamrock our Taoiseach’s wife received a bowl of Virginia Violets for her garden in Co Mayo. Could this be the start of Ireland trading its way out of recession? And to cap it all as I write this blog Ireland is beating England at rugby in our new stadium in Dublin thus denying her the six nations championship! What has all this athleticism to do with the Bible? St Paul did write to young Timothy, “Physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” Not much encouragement for those involved in the sporting life! In his first letter to the church in Corinth he explains how valuable training is for self discipline. Taking his cue from the love of athletic games in the Roman world – “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” So what did he preach? At the first opportunity after he met the risen Christ on the Road to Damascus he preached about Jesus. “At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” Acts chapter 9 verse 20. And what was this eternal crown? St John in his letter to the church in Smyrna (Izmir in today’s Turkey) referred to the believers suffering but afterwards they would receive the crown of life. This is the victors crown that St Paul looked forward to, “And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” 2Timothy chapter 4 verse 8. So we conclude, ”Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus … who endured the cross … and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.