Olympic Faith: Beliefs that Drive Action

Ryan Lochte is a top swimmer from the US and a favorite to win multiple medals at this London 2012 Olympic games. When he lost the 200M Freestyle event, the commentators tried to explain what went wrong. One concluded: “maybe his head just wasn’t in the game”.

Thought and Action: Christianity has been on the decline in the West recently. Several people have attempted to “right the ship” as it were. It has become very popular to argue that the issue is “dead orthodoxy”. The idea is we have all kinds of people who tow the party line and believe the right things, but it has no impact on their lives and the hypocrisy has been the driving force behind the decline of the faith. It is said that orthopraxy (right living) is more important than orthodoxy (right believing). This sort of statement presupposes that the two orthos can in fact be separated. But perhaps the Olympics can stimulate us to look at this issue once again.

Mind and Body: I am not sure whether or not we can separate these two in theory, but in practice we must say that the vast majority of the time, our actions are fundamentally linked to our beliefs. Consider…

Olympic Athletes – Referring to a gymnastics phoneme, one of the major media covering the events of London 2012 headlined their story: “What makes reigning World and US Champion Jordyn Wieber different?” The answer, “Coaches John and Kathryn Geddert, her teammates, and Wieber herself share their insights into Wieber’s mental edge”. It is her mind that sets her apart time and time again.

Biblical Truth – “Do not be conformed to this world [don’t live and act like the world], but be transformed, by the renewing of your mind [get your beliefs right] that by testing you may discern what is the will of God… [you do the right actions]” (Romans 12:2). It is a maxim that “As a man things within his heart, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7).

Historic Wisdom – “Depend upon it, there are countless holy influences which flow from the habitual maintenance of great thoughts of God, as there are incalculable mischiefs which flow from our small thoughts of him.” (C.H. Spurgeon)

Doctrine and Behavior: In Matthew 16:1-12, Jesus uses a “teachable moment” to communicate this important truth to his disciples. A look at verse 12 shows us that this lesson is a warning: “to beware… of the teaching (or doctrine) of the Pharisees and Sadducees”. Yet nowhere in this passage is a specific doctrine noted or discussed. Instead Jesus focuses on actions. The actions of the disciples mirrored the actions of the unbelieving Pharisees and Sadducees, therefore Jesus notes, they have “little faith” and they must beware of imbibing “the teaching” of these hypocrites and skeptics.

Paul reminded Timothy of the essential unity between doctrine and behaviour, when he warned: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Tim 4:16). Is your faith a practice rooted in doctrine, and a doctrine this is adorned by good prectice? Or is it really a profession disconnected from your real life actions? If the second case is true there is danger ahead for you.

Paul prayed for the Philippian believers: “it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more [correct motivation], with knowledge and all discernment [correct doctrine] so that you may… be pure and blameless… filled with the fruit of righteousness [correct living]” (Phil 1:9-11).

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