It was a stunning moment in the U.S. Olympic trials on June 23, 2016. The Men’s 10 meter platform synchronized diving trial was dominated by Olympic Gold medalist David Boudia and his young, relatively inexperienced teammate Steele Johnson. Their six dives electrified the audience. They scored higher than previous Olympic Gold medal teams, setting up an expectation for a possible medal in this year’s Olympics in Rio. After completing their final dive, Steele Johnson swam to the side of the pool and wept with the realization that he had made the Olympic team. His family wept. Many were deeply moved by the moment.
Finally, the NBC commentator interviewed the diving duo. Turning to Johnson, she said, “Steele Johnson, you are going to the Olympics. We see the emotion. Describe what’s going through your mind.”
Johnson shook his head in disbelief. “I’ve been working for this dream for a long time,” he said, “and honestly I never thought the day would come. And I feel like I just blinked and now I’m on the 2016 Olympic Team. But it’s cool because, this is exciting, this is fun, but this is not where my identity is going to be for the rest of my life. Yeah, I’m Steele Johnson the Olympian, but at the same time I’m here to love and serve Christ. My identity is rooted in Christ and not in the flips we’re doing.”
This was the moment. I sat stunned on my couch staring at the screen. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard.
Now please hear me on this. I don’t think it is necessary to give a shout out to Jesus when you win. I believe you can glorify God just by doing something well. It was a bonus that Johnson said what he did. What I loved was that he had figured out where his identity lies. Have you?
Where is your identity? Think about this for a moment. Is your identity based on your job? Is it based on your accomplishments? Is it in being a mother or father? Is it in being a husband or a wife? Is it in being young and healthy? Is it based on being an athlete? Where do you find your identity?
If you are a follower of Jesus, your identity is that of a son of God. You have been adopted into the family of God. As such, you are a son or daughter of God. This is who you are. You have all the rights and privileges of being a child of the most powerful, loving father ever. Paul wrote about our identity as children of God in his letter to the church in Galatia. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7, ESV).
That is an exciting truth! In fact, it is so exciting that Satan will try to get you to question your identity at every turn. He even tried to get Jesus to question his identity as a son of God. Can you imagine?
Jesus had just been baptized by John. “When Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:16-17, ESV).
God made his announcement to the world. “This is my Son!” What happened next? Jesus fasted for 40 days. Then the enemy came to him to tempt him. Notice how the enemy begins. The very first thing Satan does is to try to get Jesus to question his identity. He says, “If you are the Son of God…” (Matthew 4:3, ESV). It is remarkable. God had just said, “This is my Son,” and yet the first words out of Satan’s mouth were, “If you are the Son of God….” If our enemy would attack Jesus in this way, don’t you think it is possible that he will attack you and me in the same way? And why would he choose to attack this aspect of our lives?
Our identity as sons of God is crucial because all the rights and privileges of a son are granted to us by God. We are no longer in bondage to the enemy. We are not slaves. We are children of God. Satan has no authority over us. We have been set free! When you understand that you are a son of God, then the ups and downs in life have little significance. It truly matters not if you win or lose, you are a son of God.
It may surprise you to know that my identity is not in being an itinerant minister or a conference speaker or an author. My identity is not in my songwriting or singing. My identity is solely as a son of God. Period. The beautiful thing is that when my identity is rooted in Christ alone, no one and nothing can take it away. I am his and he is mine. Nothing can change that. The world may change. My position may change. I may grow old and feeble. But my identity stays the same.
When the Olympics begin in the coming days, we will gather with friends to watch and cheer on our home town heroes. Some will receive medals for their achievements. Others will receive hardly a mention, only to fade into obscurity in coming days. But for those who understand where their identity lies, the true reward will always be held closely. “I am a son of God.”
That, my friends, is an Olympic moment.
This article was originally published in the August 2016 Newsletter.