Article Aug 15, 2016

Greater than gold: From Olympic heartbreak to ultimate redemption

Editor’s Note: This excerpt is taken from David Boudia’s new book about shattered dreams, misplaced hopes and the God who redeems. With the help of Tim Ellsworth, David uses his story to make much of the eternal life and satisfaction he’s found in Christ. This section, written before the Rio Olympics and the silver medal he and Steele Johnson won (check out their interview), picks up at the end of his story, looks forward to the future and highlights some of the encouragement that has been most beneficial to his walk with Christ.

The competitive fire that has burned within me since childhood is still there. I want to win every event I compete in, and Rio in 2016 will be no different. But as I age and mature, I gain a better understanding of what goes into that. I know I don’t have control over my competitors and how well they dive, so the outcome is obviously uncertain. But if I can dive to my full potential, I hope to be one of the top contenders for a medal in Rio.

At the same time, the thought of another Olympics and the potential aftermath intimidates me a little. I’ve walked through the challenges that came in the aftermath of a gold medal in London, and I know how easy it is to believe the lies that come with such exposure. I understand now, however, what to expect if God chooses to put me in the position to win gold again.

I hope you’ve encountered something in my story that connects to your life and your circumstances. Allow me to leave you with a few final encouragements that God has revealed to me and that have been beneficial to my walk:

1. Don’t live by how you feel, but by what you know to be true. God’s truth through Scripture gives us all the guidance we need for living godly lives. Your old self (before Christ) would live by how you felt. But if you’ve been made new in Christ, you don’t have to live that way. You are free from that bondage. Sometimes our culture wants to preach that we should live by our emotions and do what feels good. While that may provide satisfaction for a moment, it ultimately leads to heartache and despair (Galatians 2:20).

2. Take your thoughts captive. Sin is the enemy. As followers of Christ, we are called to battle it valiantly and vigorously. Don’t be passive in the war against sin and resign yourself to the fact that you have no control over your thoughts. You do! God provides grace and will help you in the fight. Our obedience to Christ must be marked not just by how we act externally but by how we think inwardly. You don’t have to give in to sinful thoughts. Take them captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

3. Be process oriented, not results oriented. Remember the Olympic creed? The important thing is not the triumph but the fight. So many times in our lives, results are out of our hands and we are dependent on things we can’t control for the outcomes we desire. Learning instead to focus on the process, the journey itself, allows us to focus our energies more on the things we can control. That, in turn, leads to greater fulfillment and more enjoyment as we go through life leaving our ultimate path in the Lord’s hands (Psalm 37:5).

4. Put your hope in the right place. For the first several years of my life, I tried my utmost to find lasting satisfaction and joy in things that were never designed to provide them—in the creation rather than the Creator. I thought the Olympics and a gold medal were a surefire way for me to be happy for life. The result? Destruction, despair, and disillusionment. Fame is fleeting. Riches can vanish in an instant. Pursuing such temporary pleasures may provide some momentary joy, but not joy in its fullest as God designed his people to have it. True joy on earth and eternal joy in heaven are found only in a relationship with Jesus Christ (Titus 3:1–7).

5. All I have is Christ. The most important decision you will ever make is whether to follow Jesus Christ, submitting to his lordship, turning from your sin and rebellion, and trusting in his sacrificial death on the cross as your only hope of salvation. You can take the gold medal away from me. You can take my health and my career. You can take my particular church. And as much as I love them, you can take my friends and my family. If all I have is Jesus, then Jesus is enough. It’s a scary thought, yes, but true. He is worth every sacrifice you may have to make. He is worth every struggle in this life you may have. The Bible says that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6). He is my only hope, and he is your only hope.

So what’s after Rio in 2016 for me? I honestly don’t know. I know that I can’t keep diving competitively forever, but I can’t tell when I’ll officially have to call it quits for good. That uncertainty is difficult for me because I’ve always been a planner with clear goals and objectives to pursue. The nebulous future, in a way, makes me uneasy.

But while I may not know what my future holds, I do know the one who holds it. He is the same one who has been walking beside me all along, calling to me when I was rebelling against him, rescuing me from the depths of my sin, redeeming my purpose from the emptiness and hopelessness that once characterized it, and giving me a life that has eternal significance and meaning. The gold medal I chased and ultimately won will one day tarnish and fade. Jesus instructed us not to store up for ourselves treasures like that on earth, where moth and rust destroy. Instead, we are to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. For where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also (Matthew 6:20–21).

For much of my life, my heart was consumed with the earthly treasures that did not and could not satisfy the deepest longings of my soul. The ultimate satisfaction and joy in life is much greater than gold: it’s found in those treasures in Christ that last forever.

*Taken from Greater Than Gold by David Boudia. Copyright @ 2016 by David Boudia. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson.