By Alan Bailey
Have you ever imagined yourself standing on the centre riser of the Olympic podium, decorated with a gold medal and listening to the strains of your National Anthem? This is nearest that the overwhelming majority of people will ever get to gold and glory.
In my daydream I would love to come running into the stadium leading the field of marathon runners to the finish line.
For the real Olympic athletes, standing on that podium makes all the effort worthwhile – the sweat, the agony, the months and years of discipline. It is the ultimate.
Our measuring sticks
Popular thinking always places victory over rivals as the road to success. Our heroes are the winners. No question. To do well in the world means to come out on top, to make a fortune, to have your name on magazine covers, to match up with a dream partner. The alternative is being an also-ran or a failure.
This kind of thinking needs to be challenged. If not, disappointed people will abound, questioning the worth of their lives. Competitors returning from Rio without a medal may sink into despair. Millions who regret their education, their careers, their broken marriages, will have nothing to show, nothing to boast about.
Is competition wrong?
It's often said that competition itself is wrong. Fine for winners but devastating for losers.
I'm not convinced about that. It seems that competition is so much part of being alive that we will never avoid it unless we crawl under a rock and stay there.
Competition can bring about great achievements and act as the enemy of laziness and sloth. Learning to be a gracious loser builds good character.
Of course, there is a level of dog-eat-dog competition which is not healthy. Rivals are despised, others seen as less than human. Crime and injustice are the fruits of this twisted sense of values.
More than gold
Perhaps the most successful people are unknown and unsung. Our way of thinking about success has blinded us to the things of true and lasting value.
People who are faithful, honest, pure, kind, considerate and loving don't hit the headlines for being that way. In our world, they look old-fashioned, even a bit naïve.
As for possessing what is valuable, what price would you place on forgiveness of sin and peace with God?
He offers us eternal life as a gift and fellowship with Himself and His Son, Jesus Christ. Now we are talking about things infinitely worthwhile. All bought with the price of the precious blood of Jesus, shed for sinners.
The offer is to all. Rich or poor, successful or unsuccessful. We can be rich in the right sense of the word. We make our choice.•