I am not making this up.

We’ve had a lot of … um, interesting events come and go in the Olympics. Let’s just take one decade and look at some events from the Olympics in the 1900s.

  • Croquet
  • Ballooning
  • Tug of War
  • Motor Racing
  • Live Pigeon Shooting. And if you didn’t want to shoot at pigeons, there was …
  • Pistol Dueling

Other years gave us rope climbing, poodle clipping, ski ballet, and one that is still with us today: synchronized swimming.

But let’s go back to the ancient Olympics, specifically 564 B.C. There was an event called the pankration. Pankration was a mixture of boxing (bare-knuckled) and wrestling, with a good dose of kicking, chokes, and other forms of pain. It essentially had no rules, except these: no biting and no gouging. Beyond that, hoo boy, it was vicious—much like today’s mixed martial arts. It was a simple, albeit quite violent sport, and it was the most popular event during the Olympics.

In 564 B.C., Arrachion of Phigalia won the pankation. Well, he didn’t win it, so much as his opponent (whose name was not recorded) conceded. He quit—but not before the two men went at it with all they had. When this now unknown man gave up, Arrachion was declared the winner.

The bout was rough on Arrachion too. Did I mention this was a vicious sport? As his opponent ceded, Arrachion laid there on the ground. Yet even when his name was called and he was declared the victor, Arrachion just laid there on the ground. He wasn’t being humble or just exhausted; HE WAS DEAD.

To this day, Arrachion remains the only dead person to win in the Olympics.

There is a better form of victory, but it also involves dying. Jesus said,

“If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:23-26).

This is nothing short of a call to die. It’s a call the world does not understand; in fact, it seems contradictory. But when we die to self and surrender our lives to Christ, then we truly discover life! We discover the life we were created to live. But we can only experience this victorious, abundant life when we die it ourselves … die to our wants and wishes … die to our self-centeredness.

As Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly during the week before His own death, He said,

“Truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself. But if it dies, it produces much fruit. The one who loves his life will lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24-25).

So go ahead … die. Surrender everything to Jesus, trust Him, and victory is yours. And you won’t have to kick anyone for this victory.

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