Most of us like professional sports. If it’s not a childhood dream of ours, it’s something we enjoy for entertainment purposes. There are even some women, proven by reality shows in excess, who may like professional sports because of the status that comes from being WITH a professional athlete.
So whether it’s love of the game or the idea of money and fame, sports intrigue us. Still, let’s take it further. What lessons can they teach us?
We all want to be successful… even if/when we all define success differently. Again, some play professional sports for pure love of the game, while others do it for money and fame.
Put in the Time.
Listen to the Coach.
Know your Opponent.
Put in the Time: Athletes put in an insane amount of hours training. We would be silly to think we could be spiritual superstars without the same level of discipline. For athletes, this includes: practicing correct skill set for your sport, building endurance, strengthening the right muscles. No athlete makes it to the professional level without making personal sacrifices. But again, the sacrifice and training is directly correlated to the position they play in the sport they play. A wide receiver has a different training regimen than a defensive tackle or corner back. He also has a different workout than a point guard or a track star. Their training is specific to their goals.
Putting in the time for us, with our faith, looks very similar. We need to strengthen spiritual muscles and disciplines. Praying. Fasting. Tithing. Serving. Worshiping. Even LOVING. Yes! That’s a spiritual discipline. Do you know the fundamental goal of Christianity is for us to love God and love people? The Bible even tells us what love is, and what love isn’t. The Ten Commandments break down into 1-4: Love God, and 5-10: Love People. Why? Because it also says, “God is love” (I John 4:8). He doesn’t do love, act love, feel love. It’s not in His DNA, it is His DNA.
Listen to the Coach: Experience and ability to see the big picture garner trust. Most coaches have been there. They don’t train to be coaches, without having firsthand knowledge and experience of their sport. Even if their time as a player is short-lived, ie: Tony Dungy, their time served validates their understanding. Our Head Coach sees it all. However, He didn’t stop at good enough. He came on earth to have first-hand experience in life. He wanted to gain respect through His understanding of what we go through. He’s not just sitting high, looking low. He got His hands dirty. He wept at loss. He was physically assaulted. He was betrayed by a friend. Still, He trained Himself through fasting and praying. He built His spiritual muscles through disappointments and joys; all so that we could have confidence that His strategy is fail-proof. Even when we don’t understand His play-calling, we can trust His experience.
Know your Opponent: Athletes and coaches watch tape of their opposition. Why? They are looking for kinks in the armor. Knowing your opponent in battle is exposing and exploiting their weaknesses, as well as combating their strengths. Want to attack your opponent’s flaws? You have to start first by identifying your opponent. Though it changes on a daily or weekly basis for athletes, for us as believers, it is steady. The friend that did us wrong is not our opponent. The employer who’s treating us bad is not our opponent. Think about it this way. Who gains from your sin?! Or at least, thinks they do? That’s your opponent!
At the end of the day, your life bears no impact on Satan’s outcome. Think about it. If you lose in the game of life, it’s not a win for him. He doesn’t climb brackets with every believer’s downfall. He doesn’t gain access to a better after life if he replaces himself with enough losers.
Want greater success in your spiritual life? If you are playing to win, your Head Coach gives you pictures all around you for reminders. As your favorite athlete or team pursue professional or Olympic goals… remember, their success can be yours: Put in the Time. Listen to the Coach. Know your Opponent.