“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” -Philippians 3:14

I’m pretty happy it’s finally Junior Camp again! It’s easily one of my favorite weeks of camp during the summer. Since it’s 4th through 6th graders, most of the campers are brand new to camp which means, as staff, we get to share this place with so many of them for the first time.

This week, our theme is “Bring Your Best Game”. In case you didn’t know, it’s an Olympic year, and in just a few short weeks, over 10,000 athletes (representing 206 countries) from around the world will be competing for gold in Rio de Janerio.

Did you know that there are over 300 events happening in this year’s Olympics? Twenty-eight different sports, from golf to swimming to beach volleyball, are all being played in Brazil this year.

Despite age gaps, speaking varying languages, and being skilled in different sports and events, all 10,000 of these Olympians have one thing in common: they’ve gone through strict training; they’ve kept their eyes on Olympic Gold; they haven’t given up. Despite injuries and failures, despite being told they weren’t good enough, despite the heartbreak and pain, they’ve persevered.

Our Junior Camp speaker, Rev. Scott Bostwick, is teaching us all what it means to be Olympians this week. However, he’s not talking about winning gold in Ga-Ga Ball or getting a prize for the most Chipwiches eaten. We’re learning what it takes to be an Olympic Christian.

As our theme verse (Philippians 3:14) states, we’ve got to press on, keep our eyes on our heavenly prize, and keep running the race. That’s what Jesus wants from us: perseverance. We live in a broken world, as recent events across our country have only emphasized these past few weeks. Bad things happen to us and those we love. People get sick, or hurt. But despite what this sinful world throws at us, God wants us to overcome and finish the race. 

Last night, Scott shared a little Olympic story with us. In 1992, the Summer Olympics were being held in Barcelona, Spain.(You can watch the video Scott shared below!) One specific Olympian was 27 year old Derek Redmond, who was representing Great Britain in the 400 meter race.

Redmond was doing well in the race, pushing his body to it’s limits. But about 250 meters in the race, the unspeakable happened. It was something that training for years would never prepare him for. Redmond pulled a hamstring in his leg, shattering his hopes of Olympic Gold. Redmond kept moving, limping his way towards the finish line despite the other runners having already complete the race.

As Redmond limped along the track, you could see he was on the verge of giving up, caving to the pain, and quitting the race all together. Redmond’s father was sitting in the crowd, but when he saw his son limping, he did something pretty remarkable.

Redmond’s father rushed down to the track, and holding on to his broken son, helped him finish the race.

During the last summer Olympics, I remember seeing Redmond’s story in a Visa commercial. It was narrarated by legendary actor, Morgan Freeman. One thing Freeman says in the commercial struck a cord with me: “He and his father finished dead last, but he and his father finished.”

For me, I couldn’t think of a better example to show the compassion, love, and mercy of God. He loves us so much and want’s us to finish to the race we are running. So much so, that He came down to help us finish our race. When your life is crumbling, everything is going wrong, and you feel like giving up hope and quitting the race, just remember that somewhere, God is in the stands. He’s getting to ready to run down and help you finish the race.

You might be limping. You might finish dead last. But you know what? With God, He’s always going to help you finish the race.