My oldest son is a sports enthusiast, athletically talented and drawn to anything that resembles a ball. And in a family that has very little experience or interest in organized sports, he is proof that nurture may direct a child, but it is the Lord who formed him uniquely in the womb.
One of his recent interests has been the YouTube show “No Days Off,” a series of documentaries that highlights young athletes who are performing at levels above their peers. Raw talent may be exhibited in each to some degree, but it is their level of commitment to the sport and to their fitness that is breathtaking. At twelve, ten, or eight years old, these kids are out practicing every single day, physically training their bodies to endure the rigors of the sport, and even enlisting personal trainers to teach them the finer details and keep their motivation elevated. And they take joy in every minute of their pursuit.
What a witness to other athletes to step up their commitment to their own athletic development and raise the level of their love for their sport?
Perhaps there is something here for the Christian.
I am reminded of Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church, where he likens the Christian to the athlete.
“Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium compete, but only one receives the prize? So, run to win. Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
And what is our prize? Is it to stretch our bodies to new heights, until age or injury eventually ruins what we have worked so hard to build? Is it merely self-exaltation, demonstrating to the public masses what we can personally achieve, immortalizing our lives into meaningless statistics? Or is it to fill a shelf with plastic trophies destined for the landfill? Or is it something more significant?
No, we seek a true treasure of priceless worth (Mat. 13:44-46). Jesus Christ—in whom is eternal life (1 Jo. 5:11; John 6:47; Rom. 6:23). Not only a long existence but abundant life (John 10:10). For He is the substance of life (John 6:48), and knowing Him is life itself (John 17:3). He is so glorious a reward, that death is gain (Phil. 1:21), and even the sufferings of this life are not fit to be compared (Romn 8:18) with eternity with Him.
But do our lives demonstrate this worth? Or are these young athletes putting our passion to shame?
Do we pursue holiness (Heb. 12:14), devoting ourselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship (Acts 2:42) so that we can obey all that Christ has commanded us—out of love for Him (John 14:15; 1 Jo. 5:3)? Do we glorify God, even in the most mundane rituals of life—whether eating or drinking (1Co. 10:31), sitting in our house, or walking down the road (Deut. 6:6-9)? Do we praise him continually (Acts 2:46-47), for both the good and the bad (1Th. 5:18), because we trust Him so much (Rom. 8:28)? Do we so selflessly live that all our possessions are turned over to the Lord (Acts 2:44-46)?
Because our pursuit is not just about our own future but the future of others. We have been commanded to multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:28), not with warm bodies, but obedient disciples (Mat. 28:19-20). For that definition, we must hear the hard words of Christ which demand absolute surrender and radical allegiance to Him alone (Luke 14:25-33). And we cannot multiply what we ourselves are not.
So, let us consider His glory, and seek to become singularly-focused (Phil. 3:13) on building something great (Mat. 6:33)—both within ourselves (Phil. 1:20), and in others (Phil. 1:9-11). Through it all, loving God with our entire being (Deut. 6:5), exalting Christ in both word and deed (Col 3:17), in order to lift Him high in exaltation (Ps. 68:4) so that He will draw people to Himself (John 12:32) and add to our number daily (Acts 2:47)—not lukewarm converts (Rev. 3:16), but radical disciples given to a surrendered pursuit of Jesus Christ (Luk 9:24).
No days off!