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Competing for Christ

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We’ve all seen athletes thanking God in post game interviews.

But if you pay close attention, you’ll see that almost all of these interviews have one thing in common: the athlete was the winner of the game. 

Rarely do you see an athlete that just lost a competition thank God. 

There are a couple of things you should know about me. I love basketball, and I hate to lose. 

I started playing when I was 6, and I still play at the age of 41. I enjoy every aspect of the game, I coach several teams every year, and I watch hundreds of games from 4th graders all the way to the NBA every season. My biggest enjoyment in the game is to be able to show my skills, or my player’s skills, in a competitive game. 

I say I hate to lose. 

That is probably not too different than many of you. After all, who enjoys failing? 

That was me. Losing would eat me up inside. I was not very pleasant to be around after a loss. It didn’t matter if I played well or poorly; it didn’t even matter if I played at all. That’s right, when my favorite team would lose, it would ruin my day. 

Why do we forget who we are when we compete?

I think of Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Read that again: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Knowing this, how can the outcome of a game have such an impact on our lives? 

After college, I took a long break from playing any competitive sports. When FFC purchased our current facility, it seemed like a great opportunity for me to get back to playing basketball. Unfortunately, the “hate to lose” attitude also resurfaced. 

I was okay with this at the time, because we had a number of unchurched guys who played with us. I told myself that when they see a Christian competing hard and being upset after a loss, they will see I am no different than any other competitor. 

Boy, was I wrong!

One night after we played, a guy asked me where I worked. He was floored that I worked for the very church we were playing in. He didn’t see me as the same as him, he saw me as a fraud. A Christian man behaving like a toddler when he didn’t win a meaningless game. 

That hit me hard. 

It made me think about how I was representing Christ in my actions. I had a choice to make: compete for Christ or stop playing basketball. I chose to compete. But what does that look like? 

I decided to coach my teams to compete, and not be concerned with the outcome. 

I decided that when I compete, I will do so with one thing in mind: to glorify God. 

I read about the core values of my favorite coach, and I decided that I wanted to coach the same way. 

I took his five values: unity, passion, appreciation, integrity, and diligence, and dove into the Bible to see what I could learn about these values and how they relate to competing as a Christian. 

In the FLASH program at FFC, we attempt to instill these values in our players. We have a simple sentence for each value as well as a verse that speaks to each:

Unity
Team first. Lead by giving. Make teammates better. 
Philippians 2:3- “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. “

Passion
Commit to excellence with positive energy and relentless persistence.
Colossians 3:23- “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for man.”

Appreciation
An attitude of gratitude. Grow in both victory and defeat.
1 Thessalonians 5:18- “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Integrity
Do what is right, simply because it’s the right thing to do.
Proverbs 10:9- “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.”

Diligence
Pursue excellence with 100% effort and efficiency every day.
Proverbs 4:23- “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” 

An acronym we use for these values is UPAID. Christ paid the ultimate price on the cross for our sins. As Christians, when we compete, we must ask ourselves “what are we representing?” I tell the boys that if they represent these values on and off the court, they will have paid the price to be great for Christ. 

I would love to say that I always get this right, but I don’t. Sometimes I stew a little too long over a loss; sometimes I get upset when I don’t think we played our best and we came up short.  

Let me give you an example of an 8th grade player that gets it. We were playing a game earlier this season, we had lost our last three games and were starting to feel the effects of a losing streak. We really could have used a win. In the 4th quarter, there was a play right in front of our bench where the ref made the wrong call, giving us the ball even though it was tipped out by Brandon on our team. As the coach of the other team started going crazy over the bad call, Brandon walked right to the ref and let him know that he touched it last, and it was the other team’s ball. 

He wasn’t thinking of winning and losing at all, he was thinking of doing the right thing. 

We all compete at something, sports, work, the classroom, etc. Take a look at how you compete. Are you a living example of how God wants us to compete? 

 

Posted by RJ Parks with