The Bible is about glory. Our life should be about glory. Some people think that seeking to glorify God will make us lesser when we compete. That we will lose certain aspects like a competitive edge, killer instinct, or by "any means necessary" mentality, revealing our lack of insight into competing as a Christian. Think that way is like stepping up to a car of someone that took your parking spot, only to shrink back when they step out of the car a foot taller and twenty pounds heavier than the snapshot we saw of them in the driver's window. We don't see the depth and reality of what we're looking at. If you don't think the Bible impresses on people the insatiable desire to get glory, then re-read it.
Christians throughout the Bible are consumed with glory and making sure it goes to the right person, God. When we aren't consumed with the same passion for God's glory as we are for our glory or our teams, then we've air-balled our call in competition. It shows that we are more concerned with our own definition, or societies definition, of success. Problem is, writing a definition on the chalkboard doesn't change it in the dictionary, and it surely doesn't change God's mind. Instead our minds, or rather hearts, need to be changed. Three figures from the Bible will demonstrate for us that the same mindsets and mentalities that make great competitors, are fully present in those that are fully committed to God's glory.
Since sports is a business of cliche coaching points and sayings, we'll start with a Bible story cliche, David and Goliath. This isn't about the underdog mentality because let's face it, if God's on your side, you're definitely not the underdog. Instead, reading through 1 Samuel 17 we see David is motivated by something besides his own glory, or even the glory of his team, Israel. To be sure he asks about the rewards for defeating Goliath(1 Sam 17:26), but multiple times David refers to the offense against the living God (1 Sam 17:26,36), and when he's face to face with the giant his heart comes out.
"Then David said to the Philistine, "You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel," - 1 Samuel 17:45-46 ESV
David in the name of the Lord was battling on behalf of God, in order that ALL the earth would know there is a God in Israel. This wasn't a say uncle and I'll let you go type of getting God glory. It was a ruthless and relentless mindset that God would be glorified through these actions. So much so that after dropping the warrior, David went and cut his head off. With his own sword. I guess you could say David had that "killer instinct".
Paul was cut from the same competitive Christian cloth. He was competing for the message of the Gospel to reach all people, although he knew it would cost him, much like athletes know that success will cost them time, pain, and possibly relationships.
"And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again." - Acts 20:22-25 ESV
Paul knew there would be opposition and pain, but he knew he chose to endure. Anytime we compete we expect moments of physical fatigue, anguish, and pain. The best competitors are willing to push through and even embrace the discomfort. Paul was stoned, beaten, and imprisoned multiple times. People tried to dissuade him from going so hard. At times there is even mental fatigue or dissatisfaction as an athlete. Maybe you've been asked to switch positions for the betterment of the team, or there's a better player that needs to be focused on more. Paul can relate, he played every position in early church as pastor, church planter, apologist, and evangelist. He became all things to all people whenever the game plan called for it. By any means necessary, was probably written on Paul's wrist tape.
Jesus, however, reigns as the ultimate example. With a killer instinct to eradicate sin, and appease God's wrath on our behalf, Jesus took "by any means necessary" to it's the farthest limit. God in the flesh would allow himself to be killed, seal the win over sin. He is the Christian athlete's ultimate example.
"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him." - Colossians 2:13-15 ESV
Jesus knew why he had come and what it would take to win. Throughout the Gospels we can't help but be in awe of the unflinching resolve of Jesus as he fulfills his purpose of defeating Satan and sin, by offering Himself. Containing all power within Himself, it would have been as easy to stop as a four-year-old running by you for a touchdown. Within Jesus we see the mental toughness to fulfill Scripture on the cross, dedication when faced with the reality of the wrath of God, and the intimate knowledge of the joy of winning souls. That's the natural path of someone denying themselves for something greater. As athletes it's the attitude of our heart that we all want, to compete to our maximum capabilities. That's God's way, while the world's way says sacrifice what you can to get what you want. Your pain and the pleasure of winning are always doing battle to see who wins. That's two completely different attitudes and mindsets. Weighing the two ways of competing, God's way and man's way, God's way clearly has the competitive edge.
Go Get it
In the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus puts a spotlight on our call to good works.
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 5:14-16 ESV
Our good works are supposed to be a flashlight in the dark to focus attention on God. If our works point to God we can't half-step, there are no plays off, and we should be itching to go and ball out; knowing whether I dominate, or am defeated, it puts the Gift Giver on display. When we boil it down it's not God or the Bible that limits Christian competitors. It's our view of God's glory that is weak. We don't see God as worthy enough, we don't appreciate Christ enough, or we don't desire to see others see Him and know Him enough.
If trying to compete that way is like shooting jump shots with a medicine ball ask yourself these questions:
* What drives me more, the glory of God, or my own or my teams?
* Why is God's glory worthy me competing for?
* What do I think of when I think of competing for God's glory?
* If I say God is truly worthy of all my life and praise, what should that look like?
If any of your answers worry you, then spend time reading about God and His works. Meditate on who Christ is, and what He has done for you. Teach yourself that when God is glorified, we will be satisfied. Believers need to understand, that our glory is wrapped up in Christ. Pointing to Him, ultimately benefits us, because we are wrapped in the never-ending, rightfully glorified story of THE GOAT. And when Christ appears, we will appear with Him in glory (Col 3:3-4).