Yeah USA! We love it when Americans step on to that top platform, the flag is raised, and the national anthem is played. We examine the medal count to see how our men and women are doing in sports we couldn’t care less about any other time of the year.

The Olympics in its purest form is about more than national pride. The motto for the games is “Citius, altius, fortius” which means “swifter, higher, stronger.” Watching the parade of nations on Friday night, you had to be impressed with the diverse display of athletes. Some of the delegations consisted of one or two participants. The American delegation is the largest with over 550.

Many of the athletes will not take home a medal, but they will take home memories of standing shoulder to shoulder with the best in the world. Some will try to turn their prowess into endorsements and celebrity. Others will disappear as quickly as they appeared.

One we should remember competed in the 1968 Mexico Olympics. John Stephen Akhwari was a long-distance runner from Tanzania. He was the last participant in the marathon, finishing long after the winner, Mamo Walde from Ethipia. Akhwari finally crossed the finish line at 3:25:17, staggering into the stadium before a sprinkling of fans still present.

A reporter asked him why he was so determined to complete a race he had no hope of winning. He replied, “My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race. They sent me to finish the race.”

I think the apostle Paul would have liked Akhwari. He wrote to the Corinthian church: “Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win” (1 Corinthians 9:24). 74 men lined up for the marathon in Mexico City. 57 finished. Akhwari was 57th, but he finished what he started.

Finishing well is the goal of every Christian. The prize that awaits is not the praise of men or a medal of gold; it is of far greater value. The starting line is crowded but it is the finish line that counts.


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About Mark Wilbanks

Dr. Wilbanks became Wieuca’s fifth senior pastor in February of 2012. Mark’s father, Oliver Wilbanks, served as Associate Pastor here from 1966 to 1982. Wieuca had a tremendous influence in shaping Mark’s call to ministry during his teenage and young adult years. A graduate of both Southern and New Orleans Baptist Theological seminaries, Mark has served churches in Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia. He pastored Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for 17 years and Bradfordville First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida for ten years. He and his wife, Kim, were married in 1979 and have two sons, Andy and Jordan. Andy is married to Lindsay and they have a son, Cade, a daughter, Ruthie, and welcomed their third child, Samuel, in October.

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