What happens when false gods
betray you or leave you empty?
Speaking of the Olympics…have any of you wondered what kind of attention Ryan Lochte was seeking when he went out partying in Rio? If you haven’t heard, the 12-time Olympic medalist has had a tremendous downfall lately. You could say his “Tayna Harding” moment began after he and three teammates hit the town to celebrate. Who could blame them? They were shinning stars we elevated up to the main stage of life.
As they were heading back to the Olympic Village, the intoxicated foursome did some things they shouldn’t have done, vandalizing a gas station and then making up an elaborate story to cover-up their immature behavior. To make matters worse, Lochte boarded a plane and fled the country, worried about what might happen if he stayed in Rio.
In a heartfelt apology, he admits to his wrongdoing, in hopes, maybe to be redeemed and to put this event behind him. Last Thursday, Brazilian authorities summoned the famed swimmer back to Rio, to face charges for falsely reporting a crime, which can carry a six-month prison sentence. Another star falls.
So here’s my question: Why do we continue to seek those things that can’t live up to their promise?
Freud might say it was Lochte’s desire to be number one that caused his self-destructive behavior. He sought to be the best, and thought of himself as the best. Maybe he realized that he will always swim in the drag of another’s wake. And even though he may have won the gold medal, he certainly lost his focus on the real prize.
In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Think about Jesus saying this to you. What comes to mind when you hear Jesus speak these words? What feelings does it evoke within you?
If we are to take anything away from this passage I believe it’s this: Each one of us must make a conscious choice to direct our heart toward God’s heart. For it’s in the heart of God we enjoy all the beauty and worth found within; love, forgiveness, redemption, and transformation.
Jesus tells us that our presence in God’s love allows us to become something greater than the gold we desire. Yes, he said, you can have all that you want and more… if only you put God first.
Sounds a bit cheeky, if not a bit selfish, don’t you think? Seek God for our own personal gain? Why not? "Genuine love, like the love God offers, invites us to value ourselves in a way that reflects God’s valuing and love of you and me." In his book entitled The Greatest of These, John Indermark describes this idea as “enlightened self interest.”
I’ll admit this pairing of love with self-interest sounds a little contradictory. After all, aren’t we supposed to be selfless in our love…by loving others? Yet Jesus calls us into a kind of love that is deeply rooted not just in our giving of love, but in our receiving of it as well. That’s the very definition of love your neighbor as yourself.
Indermark argues that if we "genuinely trust that God seeks our good with love, then our love of God will lead to our good – and the good of all creation. And whatever brings good into the world will eventually serve our best interest." So whether it’s out of selflessness or selfishness, always set your eyes first upon the kingdom of God; loving others as yourself.
It might appear Ryan Lochte was thinking only about himself. And perhaps he was. But if he’s serious about seeking redemption, he might consider taking a few notes from the playbook of David Boudia, the Olympic diver whose story takes a similar turn but with different results.
A very focused and disciplined athlete himself, Boudia confesses, much of his life was spent bowing at the feet of gods fashioned in gold, silver, and bronze. He trained obsessively to prime himself for his success…and to win the favor of those false idols.
At 19, he arrived at the 2008 Beijing games with a singular focus: to possess the medal he had coveted since he was seven. He admits his heart was on winning gold so he could receive the fame and glory he so desperately wanted. Like so many other Olympians, his pursuit would prove hollow. David returned home from Beijing empty handed, devastated, and unsatisfied.
In his book Greater than Gold Boudia writes, “The Olympics didn’t supply me with any joy… or the happiness that I thought they were going to bring. It was like a punch in the gut and my world was completely shaken.” David truly felt as if he had failed everyone who had invested in him; his family, coach, team, country, and himself.
What happens when false gods betray you or leave you empty? Where do you go? Who or what do you turn to?
Trying to fill that void in his life, David became more involved in the party scene at his university. He looked to his new found friends and their opinions for his self-worth. Before long he was crashing and burning. His hopes and dreams seemed all but gone. David felt more alone and less satisfied than ever.
After a hard night of drinking, he went to his coach’s house and admitted to him that he needed help. It was there, David Boudia heard the Good News of Jesus. The more he learned of God’s grace and strength, the more his focus shifted from seeking his own glory to seeking that of God’s.
Four years later saw a different story. In London, David would not mount the podium once, but twice, winning both the gold and the bronze. What was the difference? The type of gold he sought.
This year, David Boudia may have only brought home the silver medal, but his story of transformation is a far more precious commodity. It’s a reminder to us all, of how God works in our lives. God has made a personal investment in each one of us. He pursues us and seeks us out because he loves us. And out of that love God gives us real purpose with real meaning.
I invite you this morning to invest in yourself by seeking God first. If for no other reason than God is seeking you out, and inviting you to participate in the Kingdom were love abounds, and true righteousness and glory reigns supreme. Seek God’s heart before you do anything, and this world and the world to come will be all yours.
With that invitation I leave you with the words of the Apostle Paul who encouraged the men and women of the Corinthian churches stating: “Whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”
Bible. (NRSV) Matthew 6:33-34; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1.
Boudia, David. davidboudia.com. http://davidboudia.com/ (accessed August 26, 2016).
Indermark, John. The Greatest of These: Biblical Moorings of Love. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011.