Reading Hebrews chapter 11 during the Olympics has been quite appropriate as the writer prefaces that wonderful list of Bible heroes with the exhortation to faith - "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen" while James writes "but ask in faith, never doubting" ( James 1:6). Like the swimmers who know they can do their best by swimming their own race, so we need to "run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus..."( Hebrews 12:1-2) and never doubting him.
But how does this work in today's world? So many of the Old Testament characters received a message from God ( no bible in those days) and by faith they obeyed God, even when things didn't really work out well. Take Daniel for example - fancy spending a night with the lions? Moses needed continual encouragement from God and no wonder. Who would want his job? Joseph had those dreams which applied to his later life but what of the intervening years when he was a slave, then locked in prison and seemingly forgotten! For these heroes, an encounter with God was sufficient to sustain them in good times and bad but God doesn't necessarily work that way these days.
As a teenager at church youth group and with good Bible teaching, it was always considered appropriate to have a special Bible verse as guidance/assurance when making important decisions, and I think that is one real way God speaks to us today. I can recall verses jumping out at me on various occasions and those verses stood me in good stead when making the right decisions. With that to look back on, building a relationship with God over the years means that faith is not blind but is based on experience - trust comes with any worthwhile relationship.
Just as those elite athletes have done the training and so have the confidence to compete at the Olympics, so God wants us to persevere in our relationship with him, never doubting his love and care. Paul wrote in I Corinthians 9:25 "Athletes receive a perishable wreath but we, and imperishable one". What a promise!