What does it take to get to Paris?
What does it take to get to Paris?

Today we found out the track and field athletes selected for Team GB at the Paris Olympics. It’s the news some people have been striving over years to hear. And, of course, for some it will be the best news they’ve heard, the kind of news that fixes an immovable smile of elation on one’s face. And yet, for others, it brings a pain so crushing that they will struggle to get out of bed and perform life’s simple functions.

Last weekend we saw the British Olympic trials begin to unravel these stories, as the crowd at the Manchester Regional Arena watched on. One question, though never uttered, rang loud and clear around the weekend- “What does it take to get to Paris?” As Michael Johnson states in ‘Sprint’ the latest Netflix documentary “The Olympic Games is the pinnacle of our sport”. It’s the question people ask of professional athletes- “oh, so did you go to the Olympics?” That was made abundantly clear as you tracked the stories of athletes in the build-up to the weekend.

Everywhere you looked around the track you could see athletes who have spent years prioritising and delivering what it takes to get to Paris. There were late withdrawals as athletes tried to give their injured bodies every possible opportunity to make the start line. There were athletes running under protest because they just could not accept that one false start could end their Olympic dream. There was elation as athletes on their last possible attempt met the criteria for Olympic qualification. And there was heartbreak, despair and confusion as athletes, some at their last ever British Championships, came agonisingly close to qualifying standards only to fall short and have to wait on the discretion of the British Athletics selection committee the next day. Athletes were giving everything, because there’s something about reaching the Olympics that ties in so closely to the identity of the elite track and field athlete. An event like this exposes the fragility of elite sport. Any athlete, Olympian or not, is never more than a hairs breadth from ultimate disappointment.

But faith in Jesus offers a completely different perspective.

A Christian athlete can find their identity not in being ‘an Olympian’, or their brand, or their last performance but their position before God given by the Lord Jesus.

Peter reminds his fellow believers of their fundamental identity in 1 Peter 2:9-10.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Amid trying circumstances, Peter writes to remind his readers that they are dearly loved and special to God. The game-changing truth especially for the high performer is that identity is not earned.

In His mercy God doesn’t give His people what they deserve, instead He has lavished His grace on them and treats them like royalty. This is the fundamental identity for the Christian, and it cannot be taken away.

It is when a Christian grasps their fundamental identity that they can respond to both success and disappointment with remarkable maturity and say: ‘Whether or not I’m going to Paris does not define me. Instead, I can give thanks to God because of what he’s done for me, and I can give thanks that he’s called me to compete to the best of my ability knowing that the outcome does not define me.’

This isn’t straightforward or easy but through Christ’s sacrifice, and God's work in athletes by His spirit, it is possible to say for the rightly disappointed or delighted Christian athlete.

Simon Poole

Simon works with elite athletes for Christians in Sport helping them in the highs and lows of top-level sport. He is also one of the leaders at
Town Church Bicester.

SMP slide

Make the most of this summer of sport with the Sports Mission Pack


Get the perfect start every

A weekly devotional for sports people

Choose your game day