Lots of young athletes want to grow up and be sports stars. A little boy in a #12 Packers Jersey stares into the television screen at Aaron Rodgers as he throws a game winning touchdown, and the boy sings “I want to be him when I grow up!”
Young athletes have big dreams, and those dreams are wonderful. However, a lot of them are caught up in the idea of being a professional athlete and forget that they actually have to be good at the sport they play.
Some athletes, especially young athletes, don’t put in the time that is needed to be a great athlete. They will go to basketball practice three times a week during the season, and go home and watch T.V. instead of putting in the extra time working on their layups.
The same can be said about many Christians, especially new Christians. A young woman goes to a conference or attends a retreat, sees the main female speaker on stage talk about her life with Christ while telling a few jokes along the way, and the attendee thinks “I want to be her when I grow up!”
It is great to be inspired by the Christians around us. God put other people here just for that reason. These people found love in Christ, put in the time it takes to grow in relationship with Christ, and are now helping others to do the same.
However, I think a lot of us love the idea of being a great Christian someday, but find ourselves thinking that one or two retreats a year are good enough and do nothing else to know Christ better. Believe it or not, participating in a relationship with Christ takes a lot more effort.
I don’t know about you, but I find myself thinking “I want to be like this speaker or that great Christian,” and forget to think “I want to grow in a strong relationship with Christ, like that speaker did.”
In sports and in faith, we need to remember that to be an athlete we need to practice, and to be a Christian we need to participate in our relationships with Christ.
Want to start being a skilled athlete or strong Christian? Take a look at this list for ideas on how to start.
Baby Steps: I know it’s cliche but it’s worth repeating- Rome wasn’t build in a day. It takes time to become a great athlete or Christian. So start small and grow your workouts over time.
Athletes, along with your pre-set skill workouts, add on 20 push ups a day. Once that becomes easy, add another mini exercise. Over time these little workouts will make you stronger.
Christians, add one prayer opportunity to your day that you normally would not have taken before. It can be anything you want, but if you don’t have any at this time and want to get started, try this prayer method: Read one verse of the bible a day. It doesn’t have to be a whole chapter, only one verse. Over time you will feel more comfortable being with God in the scriptures and you will be able to absorb more over time.
Find a Coach: Nothing is more taxing than performing a difficult task alone. Find one person who will encourage and challenge you.
Athletes, you want to get good at your sport? Prove it. Find a ‘personal coach.’ Talk to a parent, strong willed friend, your actual coach or someone you trust and get them to work with you one on one. Asking someone to help you in this way can be intimidating. Don’t get intimidated. Stay strong. Find a coach who will push you further than you’ve ever gone.
Christians, find a coach! Lots of churches have spiritual directors, disciples and priest who would be more than happy, and trained, to help you grow in your relationship with Christ. Your coach can even be a friend, family member or co-worker who is also working on their relationship with Christ. You can help each other out!
Join a Team: God put all human beings on the earth to help and support each other. All human beings need to assist each other toward their common goals.
Athletes, even those of you who participate in an individual sport need a team. Growth is easier when you around those who are working toward the same goal. Find a team that will encourage you, challenge you, and want the best for you- and remember to be a source of encouragement for them as well.
Christians, you need other Christians in order to know Christ. He designed, crafted and resides in others. You cannot begin to know Him until you see Him in others. There are bible studies, services, masses, youth groups, any number of opportunities for Christians to join together for fellowship. Get to know your Christian brothers and sisters and learn from them.
Don’t Give Up: Let me make something clear- THIS WILL NOT BE EASY! Athletics and Christianity are both difficult. If anyone has told you otherwise, I am sorry they deceived you.
Athletes, your muscles will hurt, sleeping will become more of a necessity, and you will have a hard time keeping up with the latest season of The Middle. If you are truly passionate about becoming an athlete in your chosen sport, don’t let go. Use the talents God gave you to glorify Him. That is why he gave them to you.
Christians, the cross is not easy. If someone has said that it is, they are extremely delusional. Choosing the path of Christ will involve a lot of heartache, discomfort and times of sadness. But let me tell you this- carrying the cross is worth it. A relationship with Jesus is peaceful, freeing, and joyous. Please, do not give up on Jesus. He never gives up on you.
Humble Yourself: This point is probably one of the more important ones. In both athletics and Christianity it can be hard to stay rooted. I’ve been there guys. I am not pointing this out because I am an expert. Pride is easy to fall into.
Athletes, remember that your skill was given to you by God. Without Him, you would have nothing. Be sure to thank him. Also, remember that your identity if rooted in Christ, not your accomplishments. No matter how many trophies you win or games you loose, it does not matter- what does matter is you are a son or daughter of Christ. He loves you no matter what your accomplishments are. Be sure you are a person of kind, loving and good character. Never, EVER, use your athletic skills as an excuse to act like a jerk.
Christians, while humility is supposed to be something we strive for, it seems to be the hardest thing to practice. How many times a day do we degrade someone because of the sins they have committed? What about when we try to justify our own sins because we don’t want to believe they are actually harmful? How about this- how often do we use our Christian faith to put ourselves above non practicing people? Not cool Christians, not cool. Every single human being on this planet is in need of God’s saving power. I am no better than you, you are no better than me. We both need a God who saves us from our sins and pride. Join me in praying that God gives us(you and me) the opportunity to grow in love and humility.
There is no better time to begin training than right now. Here is my challenge to you- pick one of the concepts above and begin working on it. Start praying daily, ask a friend to start jogging with you on Saturday mornings, begin the process of growing in humility.
Let the excitement you feel from watching a talented athlete compete or the joy you feel while listening to a Christian singer inspire you to begin your journey. Remember, God put you and other human beings on this planet just for that reason. Let’s begin growing today.
If you are looking for a team to join, I have one in mind for you- The SportsFaith Team! Like us on Facebook and get connected to other sport lovers who are growing in their relationships with Christ.