The Olympics are about to begin in Sochi, Russia. You know that and probably most of your clubbers/teens know that too.
But how many of your clubbers/teens know that the Bible refers to the ancient games?
What a great opportunity for Large Group Time!
Here are some suggestions for your lesson (you can adapt it to Sparks, T&T, Trek and Journey).
1. The first known Olympic athlete to win a race was Coroebus (or Korebos). Coroebus was from Elis, Greece and back a couple thousand years ago, he won the 200 meter foot race. Coroebus wasn’t in the first Olympics, but his victory WAS the first one recorded for posterity. No, he isn’t mentioned in the Bible – but his olive wreath prize is. (More on this below.)
2. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 are the most familiar verses which allude to the Olympics.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
3. Ancient Greece had four similar festivals (of which the Olympics were one). The Isthmian Games were held in Corinth. The festivals included feasting, running, boxing, wrestling, etc. and religious rituals – often sacrifices to mythical gods.
4. The word “race” in 9:24 actually comes a root word meaning race course. (Some scholars think this was a distance of 606.75 feet.) The word comes from the same root word as stadium.
The words “exercises self control” comes from the Greek word agonizomo which some translate as “training for the Olympics.” Interestingly, the word is also the root word for agonize. Training was no easy task – but hard 24/7 work.
5. Athletes trained for 10 months and before the race had to go to the gymnasium to be judged on their worthiness – by judges who had also trained 10 months on how to judge. Much of the training was a lite diet. (One place said it consisted of a lot of cheese.) The athletes often exercised to flute music.
Epictetus (a smart man in Greece) said: Thou must be orderly, living on spare food; abstain from confections; make a point of exercising at the appointed time, in heat and in cold; nor drink cold water nor wine at hazard.”
6. Many of the athletes went on to military service so the training and the games were actually preparation to be a strong soldier.
7. The athletes won a crown made out of olive branches – obviously corruptible/perishable (would-quickly-fall-apart). All that training for something that didn’t last. We, as Christians work for an incorruptible/imperishable crown – one which lasts forever (and doesn’t fall apart).
VISUAL SUGGESTION: Make a crown of olive branches. (I did some research and a good substitute is parsley leaves on a grape vine wreath – which you can get in most craft stores. Ask a leader to wear the crown during club. Ask him to bring it back the next week so clubbers can see how quickly the crown corrupted/perished.)
8. Some correlations …
*Athletes worked toward a corruptible crown by being self-controlled in their training. We strive toward an incorruptible crown by being self-controlled in our Christian life.
*Athletes trained by eating a healthy diet. We, too, should have a healthy spiritual diet.
*Athletes were actually training to be strong soldiers. We are also in training to be strong “soldiers” for Christ (see Ephesians 6).
9. Christians also can earn additional incorruptible crowns. (See Ultimate Challenge, Book 2 – Challenge 8:2.) We won’t wear these crowns down the golden streets, however, but will instead, give them back to the Lord to honor and praise Him. (Revelation 4:10)
10. Additional verses
Hebrews 12:1 – getting down to a good weight (getting rid of bad influences) and running the race well.
1 Timothy 4:7-8 – Paul again talks about training.
2 Timothy 2:5 – an athlete must follow the rules.
Have fun with this. Clubbers could dress in Olympic ring colors or as an “Olympian” in their favorite spot.
Play “Olympic” games. Have running races, bobsledding (one clubber pulling another around the circle on a flattened cardboard box) basketball or curling (pushing an object over a goal line).
Make medals out of cardboard, foil and ribbons for the prizes.