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As Summer Olympics loom, Tokyo declares state of emergency

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Photo shows an Olympic rings monument in Tokyo on July 8, 2021, ahead of the Tokyo Olympics starting in late July. (Kyodo via AP Images) ==Kyodo

The Summer Olympics are set to start on Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. They were supposed to happen last summer but were understandably postponed as the coronavirus swept across the globe. For many, the return of the Summer Olympics was meant to represent that life was continuing its return to normalcy. 

Unfortunately, a spike in cases in Tokyo and the surrounding areas has served as a stark reminder that a Covid-free Games is not going to happen.

Japan’s Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, announced Thursday that the government has declared a new state of emergency in the coming days that would endure throughout the Olympics. While the Games would still go on, with the world free to watch, they will occur in largely empty stadiums and under less-than-ideal conditions. 

And, as athletes begin to arrive from around the world, many in the local governments set to host the Olympians are calling for stricter regulations and tighter security. Members of the Ugandan national team had to be quarantined upon testing positive for coronavirus after arriving last month, and they were far from the only ones. 

A shortage in vaccines has exacerbated the risk as well, with roughly 80 percent of Japan’s population left without full vaccination. 

Despite the dangers, however, the Games will go on. And, while Covid will likely remain part of the storyline throughout the events, it will eventually fade to the background once the competition takes center stage. As such, the Olympics serve as a parable of sorts for how a lot of us have come to see Covid.

Anxious about tomorrow?

For most people, the coronavirus has gone from being something that dominated our lives to a disease that sits in the background of our collective consciousness and, for the most part, tends to stay there. It’s not that people have forgotten it exists or that it continues to plague large parts of the world, but we just don’t have the interest or energy to worry about it like so many did a year ago. 

And that’s a good thing. 

Life has to go on, and it should. That doesn’t mean we ignore the risks or act as though the world is back to normal. But allowing the more important parts of life to retake center stage frees us up to dedicate our focus and energy to places where they can do more good. 

When Jesus said “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself,” therefore pointed back to the previous verse. He said the best way to deal with the anxiety inherent to life was to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” trusting that God would take care of the rest (Matthew 6:33–34). 

That promise doesn’t mean that the areas of life that cause us to worry will magically disappear or that we can just sit back and trust God to handle everything. Rather, it means that when we approach each day with our focus on serving his kingdom, every other concern will fall into its proper place. 

Whether it’s Covid, problems at work, stress in the family, or any number of other concerns, there will always be something that threatens to take God’s place as our top priority. Learning how to trust those anxieties to him and keep our focus on his kingdom, addressing everything else through the lens of how we can serve him best, is crucial to experiencing his peace and blessing in our lives. 

Consider listing your concerns right now. Then ask God how he may want to turn those concerns into ways to seek his kingdom today.