By Laurel Robinson
Under Armor has produced an inspiring commercial in which they show Olympic medalist swimmer Michael Phelps, rising early and struggling through grueling exercises in the gym and in the water. His toil is sometimes solitary; sometimes in the dark hours of early morning; sometimes on days when he clearly does not feel up to the task. There is sweat, pain, and sacrifice. We all know how his story develops: Phelps swam better than ever, earning another five gold medals in Rio this year to add to his 18 from previous Olympics. (Not to mention the silver medals!)
The ad ends with a modern proverb: It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light. Then, an exhortation: Rule yourself.
This is an excellent reminder that success does not come simply by wishing for it, but through effort, practice, and discipline. As worshipers of the Lord Jesus and students of God’s word, we know this is true. Although salvation is God’s gift to us, we still have epic challenges to conquer in this life. Sometimes, success is a victory over the flesh, even when nobody can see us. Sometimes, there are daily battles (like Phelps’ daily burning muscles) that threaten to wear us down – but we must press on.
Christ’s “success” was certainly not what His disciples expected, but it was the greatest achievement ever: laying down His life to save ours.
Success, by definition, comes hard-won. We need this exhortation to “rule ourselves,” or as Christ once said, “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me.”
The Apostle Paul wrote: “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. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27) Paul ruled himself, as a way of loving and living for the Lord.
You may not be a swimmer like Phelps or even an evangelist like Paul; you may never be at the center of human attention. Still, you have an arena; you have a challenge; you are important to the Lord. He is cheering for you, and if you have surrendered your life to Christ, He has given you everything you need for life and godliness. He has given you the Holy Spirit. Rule your flesh; let the Spirit rule you.
I Timothy 4:8: “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”