Lessons From Rio - Lilesa Risks it All

The Rio Summer Olympics are now behind us, and with the completed games, we’re left with all the big headlines. We’ll look at some of the top moments of the Olympics, see what God’s Word has to say about ‘em, and apply these “Lessons from Rio" to our own lives. Check out the intro video for our series to get some added excitement!

Feyisa Lilesa received the silver medal in the men’s marathon, and made headlines with a gesture he made as he crossed the finish line. The last 100 meters or so, he made an “X” with his arms over his head as he finished the race. When he finished the race, he told the media, “The Ethiopian government is killing my people…so I am protesting for my people.” He is referring to the Oromo people, who are being oppressed by their government. As they peacefully protest, they are thrown in jail and killed by the hundreds. Lilesa went on to say that because of his bold olympic statement, his wife and children are most likely in jail, and that he is unable to return home, because he is confident that he would be arrested and killed. 

That “X” gesture he made was a big risk, but he did it to bring global awareness to his people’s oppression in hopes to make change. Here’s my question for you: would you have done that? If you were in his shoes and had that big stage opportunity, would you put that much risk upon yourself for the sake of your oppressed people group? Think about it: Is there anything in your life now that you care about deeply enough to really risk it all? 

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

It’s no shock that we will experience hard times, but the apostle Paul (author of this letter) gives the encouragement that even in hard times, we will not be fully broken. We know that he wrote this letter to Christians at the church of Corinth, so it is the people who trust in Jesus that will not be crushed, abandoned, or destroyed when hard times come.

2 Cor. 4:10-12 goes on to say, “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”

As Christians, Jesus’ death and resurrection is the core foundation of what we believe, so we live with the hope of salvation in us. Because of the sacrifice made on our behalf, it should be a goal of ours to reveal Jesus to the people in our lives. Paul speaks about being “given over to death,” speaking to the suffering we may experience directly due to our faith. But that suffering is not in vain, as it can lead to the revealing of Jesus to non-believers. The power of how we react to tough times will speak largely to those who are watching. We can show people Jesus in the face of trials - we must stand for Him no matter the cost, so that others may find truth in the Gospel.

I encourage you: risk to reveal. Getting the Gospel out there will require you to take some risks and step out of your comfort zone. Having an “other’s focused” faith will guarantee to lead you to hard times, but it is to be expected and making disciples is what we are called to do. Jesus laid His life down for us, so we should have that same love for the people in our lives - to take risks with potentially negative consequences, so long as the name of our Savior is received by others. Lilesa, the Ethiopian marathoner put himself at great risk - not for himself, but for the greater good of his people. The early apostles and closest followers of Jesus were all persecuted and suffered to death - all because they cared enough about the Gospel to be taken to the ends of the earth. 

Do we care enough about Jesus to take some risks? Not to willingly and knowingly put ourselves in hostile situations for the sake of suffering, but to step out of our comfort zones to make the Gospel known. Remember, God promises not to let us be crushed and He will never abandon us, but as we take risks, we may encounter hard times - but this is living out the Gospel!