Recently I (Dean) began meeting with a small group of fellow triathletes once a week before work for breakfast and to chat. One of the guys shared two news stories from Sports Spectrum. I was unfamiliar with the website. The website motto is “Where Sports and Faith Connect.”. One of the stories was about a University of Kentucky basketball player in the SEC tournament on a Saturday night preaching at church on Sunday. The other story was about the University of Tennessee coach giving glory to God after winning the SEC championship. I am going to start following this site for inspiration from other Christian athletes.
What inspired my friend to share the stories was the question, “Am I bold enough to share my faith in Jesus to the world?” This became the first planned meeting topic after several weeks of just chatting.
During the breakfast meeting, the guys all shared their successes and failures of demonstrating their faith in public. The following are thoughts that came to me in the days following that meeting.
Many people believe in Jesus. A large percentage of the world identifies as Christians. But Jesus says “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt 7:13-14). In James 2:19 it says, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder!”.
First and foremost, we need to get our hearts right with God. Paul says in Philippians 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
We are not saved just because we believe in Jesus. Jesus deserves more. God demands more. Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Believing is not enough. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
We must go beyond believing. God wants to have a relationship with each of us. How do we have a relationship with a friend or close relative?
How do we do this with our heavenly Father?
We spend time with Him reading the bible and seeking to hear from him. We listen by being still and focusing on him. We talk when we pray and praise. We are honest when we confess our mistakes, our feelings, our goals, and our struggles. We do things together by participating in events and finding ways to serve others. This could be visiting widows and orphans (James 1:27) and it could be feeding the hungry, caring for strangers, and clothing those in need (Matt 25:31-46). We show respect by acknowledging that God is holy and deserves all we have including our very lives.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10). When we acknowledge the power that God has to decide our eternal destiny – either heaven or hell – we should be fearful. We should be asking, seeking, and knocking to know God and be known by him. The answer lies with Jesus, “the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5-6). When we surrender our lives to Christ, His shed blood pays the debt owed to God for all our past, present, and future sins. When we live out the greatest commandments – “You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”, we still make the occasional mistake, but we no longer continue knowingly in sinful behaviors.
When we fully surrender, the heavy weight of guilt is lifted, and we can be joyful in all circumstances. Therefore, living for Christ is perfect for this life and ensures our eternal destiny in heaven. Not living for Christ leaves us in chaos with no hope for eternal peace.
If you had the cure for cancer, would you keep it to yourself? Certainly not! If you are a child of God because of the relationship you have with Christ Jesus, you have something better than the cure for cancer. Everyone needs this. Why would you not tell everyone you encounter?
When Jesus rose from the grave, he gave direction to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
So be bold to tell the good news. Start with your own family and those close to you. But also, be obedient when opportunities arise with coworkers, business associates, friends, and strangers. Show the love of Christ by how you act. But also, be ready to explain the “reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). In word and in deed, represent Christ as his ambassador in your surroundings.
Be in relationship. Be loving. Be bold. Be obedient. Be joyful.
So what does this have to do with triathlon and running?
God should be at the center of everything we do. If He is not, then our priorities are in the wrong place. God calls anything we treat more important as idols. And He is a jealous God.
When you are training or racing, be prayerful, be thankful, be mindful, be listening for God's voice to guide you in every aspect of life.