Let's Root For These Christian Olympians At Tokyo 2020

"Running is my worship."

That's how Jamaican sprinter Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce describes her faith—not as something done in private or even in a church, but as an Olympian on the world stage competing to win the Olympic 100 meter title. When she runs, her thoughts don't turn to jealousy or competition or arrogance... they turn to God:

“When I run, the first thing I say is: ‘I hope you are pleased with my worship,’ for running is my worship.” 

Olympic athletes find themselves in a unique position that most other athletes rarely do, as they represent their country in front of the entire world. And Olympians who are Christians are in an even more unique position, worshipping Jesus on the world's stage.

The word "worship" can be found in the Bible over 200 times, but very few verses actually explain what it is. One of the few can be found in Paul's letter to the Romans...

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1)

Using that definition, Fraser-Pryce's view of worship makes total sense. How often do any of us (including myself!) view worship as something we through our whole body into?

Olympic athletes who are Christian have an incredible opportunity over the next few weeks in Tokyo... and if you're awake early (or late) enough, you can catch some of the competitions. Here are a few we'll be rooting for.

Simone Manuel, Swimming (USA)

In 2016, Simone Manuel won four Olympic medalstwo gold and two silver. But her journey to the Olympics this year has been anything but a smooth ride. She wore her body down with overtraining, with Manuel describing herself as mentally depressed and physically exhausted. Her doctor forced her to temporarily stop training and heal her body just months before Olympic trials, and she qualified for the 50 meter freestyle!

“I just had to take a moment to praise God,” Manuel told NBC Sports after winning that race and securing her spot in Tokyo. “I mean, this year has been difficult, especially the last couple months, but before I dove in, I felt like it was my moment, and I’m so thankful for the blessings that God has given me.”

Nicola McDermott, Track & Field (Australia)

When you're an Olympic athlete and can do something that very few people in the world can do, it can be tempting to boast and trust in yourself. That was Nicola McDermott's temptation, especially after becoming the first Australian female high-jumper to clear two meters. But she fought against that, and any praise she gets she reflects right back to God.

“When your identity is based on what you do—a performance-based identityit will never satisfy. I found that I could never jump high enough to be truly satisfied. But when your identity is based on the fact that you are loved by God…that allows me to perform out of joy and freedom.”

Micah Christenson, Volleyball (USA)

Micah Christenson isn't just an Olympic athlete... he plays the most important position on the U.S. men's volleyball team, starting at setter and leading the entire offense in matches. He was named Best Setter at the 2018 FIVB World Championship, was No. 1 at the 2016 Olympics with 340 running sets (a set that puts a hitter against zero or one blocker), and head of the 4th best volleyball team in the world. But for every success, Christenson has experienced even more losses, and takes comfort in the fact that God is with him through it all.

“It’s easy to be with God when you’re doing things well, but to go through the mud with God a little bit was a great experience for me to have. … It’s like, ‘OK God, this is still hard, I haven’t conquered this mountain yet, but I trust You,'” Christenson said in the Summer 2020 edition of Sports Spectrum Magazine

How are you worshiping God?

You and I may not be able to swim as fast, run as hard, or jump as high as any of these Olympic athletes... but we can still worship God with our whole body. What are you going to do today to give your whole self to God? Maybe it's a jog in the park... or throwing your kid as high as you can in the air... or delivering groceries to a neighbor.

Whatever it is, let us know!