5 bits of wisdom for the professional Christian woman
Sun May 19, 2013
by Shandel Slaten
Sat May 18, 2013
by Hugh Whelchel
Resurgence roundup, 5/17/13
Fri May 17, 2013
Grace all the way
Wed May 15, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
How to be on mission in the city
Wed May 15, 2013
by Stephen Um
8 Olympic Observations on Training and Faith
Like many of you, I watched as much of the London Summer Olympics as possible. I am always inspired by excellence whether it be on the track, in the pool, or on the balance beam as well as in the realm of business, the military, and the church. I am always looking for principles I can apply to my own life and share for the benefit of others.
In 2 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 12:1–2, and 1 Corinthians 9:24–27, the Bible likens the Christian life to the world of athletics.
Here are some observations after reflecting on the Olympic games:
1. The Importance of Focus
Every athlete is incredibly focused in everything they do. They have a single purpose and goal and are willing to let other things go to accomplish that goal—tunnel vision!
In Nehemiah 6, some enemies of the work Nehemiah was doing tried to distract him from the work and pull him off mission, but he refused and continued to focus on what God had called him to do. Nehemiah had a clear goal and game plan and stuck to it until the job was finished to the glory of God.
2. The Value of Training
The more I read about the recently retired Michael Phelps, the more I am intrigued by how much effort and daily training went into making him the athlete he was. Some aspiring swimmers might say that they wished they could swim like he did, but how many are willing to train like he did?
The same holds true for every first-class athlete and leader. 1 Timothy 4:7 speaks to the value of training, both in the physical as well as the spiritual realm. Training for the Christian can be in the arena of the spiritual disciplines including time invested in Scripture, prayer, worship, and repentance. Training can also take the form of something like Re:Train for aspiring leaders or something as simple as daily Bible study with a group or on your own.
3. The Role of a Team
It seems to me that every athlete is part of a team, even those sports normally thought of as a “non-team” sport. The team camaraderie and relationships help every member of the team excel. Your chances of succeeding at something rise exponentially if you have good team members around you. You don’t have to look far to see the concept of a team in God’s Word: Paul and his men, Jesus and his twelve, Moses in Exodus 18 as he follows his father-in-law’s advice. The team concept is amply captured in 1 Corinthians 12 in the “body” analogy. Each part needs the other and no part can function by itself.
4. The Need for a Coach
I can’t remember seeing a single athlete who didn’t have a personal coach. If the best athletes in the world still need a coach, so much more for you and me. Being a life and leadership coach myself, I hold high this value for every aspiring leader. Barnabas coached Paul, who in turn coached Timothy, Titus, and other young men.
5. Don’t Disqualify Yourself
My current racquetball partner, Brant (who offers me a lesson in humility most weeks), gave me this one. In 1 Corinthians 9:27 Paul speaks of not wanting to disqualify himself. During the first week of the Olympics there were a handful of aspiring athletes who were eliminated from the competition for one reason or another. It was so sad to see a gifted athlete self-destruct and have what they have been working toward for four, maybe eight years, evaporate in a few minutes to a few hours. I pray for myself on this one most days. Too many leaders disqualify themselves from effective and fruitful ministry in the sexual, financial, or relational arena, to name three biggies. King Saul would be the poster child for disqualification (1 Samuel 15).
6. Be Good at One Thing
C.S. Lewis makes the observation that, “Everyone is composed of a few themes.” (Maybe only one theme!) Michael Jordan has been called one of the greatest athletes ever. Michael could play baseball and golf, but in actuality he was really, really good at one thing. But that one thing was enough. I don’t know too many people who are really, really good at a number of things. I remember Jack Palance’s character from City Slickers saying to Billy Crystal’s character that the secret of life is “one thing, just one thing . . . that’s what you have to find out.”
In Christian leadership, what is the one area that, if you would give time and attention to it, would be your greatest contribution (by his grace) to Jesus’ kingdom purpose for your life? You will need to say no to other things to be the best at that one thing. There is huge value for leaders to be more like a laser than like the sun. 1 Kings 20:39–40 tells relays the sad account of a soldier who was given a specific task to do, just one thing. But because he was busy with other things, the one thing he was responsible for didn’t get accomplished.
Billy Graham when he preached at the funeral of Dawson Trotman (the founder of the Navigators, with whom I worked for 38 years) said, “Of Dawson Trotman, he could be said, not these 40 things I dabble at, but this one thing I do,” a reference to Philippians 3:13. Oh, the power of a single focus!
7. Start Early in Life
I am amazed when I hear an athlete say they have been working at their craft since they were in elementary school. Now, admittedly, some parents (and some countries) have pushed kids into a sport because they had natural gifting regardless of whether they were interested or not. In other cases, the athlete himself or herself wanted to spend untold hours from early in life pursing their dream. I recall one athlete saying they had been pursuing being an Olympic medal winner since they were 10 years old. Wow!
Start early on with your God-given dream, pursue it with a vengeance and focus, and see what God does. Don’t wait until you are 50 to start figuring out what you want to be when you grow up. Now is the time to begin assessing your gifts, passion, experiences, and God’s calling on your life. Even in your 20s, it is not too early to begin discerning the direction God would have you go to make your unique contribution to the great commission (Matt. 28:18–20). I regret that I waited too long in my own life to begin thinking about this.
8. Think/Dream the Impossible
Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorius. Given his disability (double below-knee amputee), the South African could have become Oscar the Grouch, but instead he became Oscar the Grateful. He may well become the most inspiring story of these Olympics. In Genesis 37 and culminating in Genesis 42 we see the incredible journey of Joseph’s dream to its fulfillment.
What dream has God given you for life and ministry that he wants to fulfill through you? Jesus reminds us in Mark 10:27 that, with man, things (dreams) seem impossible, but not for God for with him all things are possible.