Recently, my son had the opportunity to attend an FCA Leadership camp. This is what he had to say…
Earlier this summer I attended a leadership camp for my regional Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). I had an amazing time learning about how we can use sport as a platform to glorify Christ. I attended seminars, bible studies, and had great fellowship. I knew that I was surrounded by hundreds of young athletes who all shared a bond through Christ. However, over the course of the camp, I realized that it was important to change my perspective. In reality, I was surrounded by hundreds of young Christians who just happened to share the common bond of sports. We were all there to put God first…our sport second. While the question “what sport do you play” was a great conversation starter, we all knew that the answer to that question was only secondary. What this really was about was God and sharing our collective walk with Him.
Over the course of the camp, I really started to connect with a specific group of guys, and this is where I had some of my deepest and most influential conversations. Our group leader had just become a Christian not long before the camp, and it was obvious that he was just on fire for Jesus. He had countless bible verses memorized and he understood how important his walk with Christ had become. It started to occur to me that memorizing verses from the Bible, while awesome and a critical element of being a strong Christian, is only part of the equation. Yes, memorizing verses helps give you something to lean on when you are struggling, it provides a place of comfort when you need help and guidance. But, the more I thought about it and the more I learned from others at this camp is that what this is all about is our walk with Christ. It’s about what we “do”…it’s about how we “live” your lives…it’s about how we glorify Christ through our “actions”. I was able to learn how to show my love for Christ through my actions at this camp, but, I also realized that it’s about taking every opportunity to glorify Him in all that I do.
One area of our lives that many of us have in common is our love for sports. So, now is a perfect time to ask yourself…how can I use my sport to glorify Jesus through my actions? You see it in virtually every game – a baseball player pointing to the sky as he rounds the bases after hitting a game-winning home run, the football player kneeling on one knee after scoring a touchdown, or players on their knees praying after an injury to a fellow athlete.
The opportunities to honor Jesus through your sport are endless. Find something…make it yours. Be bold. Be confident in it. Be consistent with it. Make it visible. When you see a glimpse of an athlete doing his or her part in bringing glory to Jesus through their sport…take pause, look closer, and feel fortunate for what you are witnessing. Others are doing the same when they see you.
Perhaps it goes back to your elementary school days. You’re on the playground in a big group as two “captains” begin to pick players for their kickball teams. Kid after kid gets picked as the teams are formed. Sure enough, it comes down to two remaining players. With your heart pounding and not wanting to be the last player taken, you hear your friends name being called. You’re the last one left…the unchosen one.
My daughter plays fastpitch softball year-round for a club team. Unfortunately, she recently had perhaps one of her most difficult and trying seasons. While she is a very talented ballplayer, she found herself riding the bench much more than she would have liked. However, even with that, she contributed to her team in the ways that she could – by being an encouraging teammate, by being the first player out of the dugout after an inning to give her teammates high-fives, and by being a “coach” from the dugout. However, while trying to keep her perspective and being the best possible teammate, the situation started to take its toll. As any player would, she began to question her softball abilities and started to have feelings of being the “unchosen” one.
As she started to go through tryouts with other teams for next year, these feelings started to subside. She was very successful during these tryouts and out of the three teams she tried out for, she got offers to play with each team. Finally, she found that teams did want her, that they valued her skills and attitude as a player. She was now a “chosen one”. The fact that someone chose her completely transformed her and her desire and passion for the game. Sometimes it only takes one person to choose you in order for you to feel relevant again.
We, as Christians, are incredibly lucky. We get to feel relevant all the time. We have been chosen. We don’t have to be a great teammate or even have exceptional skills in our sport in order to be chosen. Even before we were born, God chose each and every one of us to be His. In the beginning of the book of Genesis, God creates the heavens and the earth, birds of the air, and animals of the earth, but one part of His creation was more important. Us. Humans. We were his “chosen people” over everything else He created.
So, next time you are standing alone, the last person waiting to be picked for the team, just remember, you’ve already been chosen for somthing much bigger than the upcoming game.
Dany Heatley, a left wing for the Minnesota Wild has been in the NHL for 11 years. He has been a bit of a journeyman, playing for 4 teams after making his NHL debut with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2001. In 2011, he joined the Minnesota Wild and had solid seasons – up until the 2013-2014 season. During the year, he showed glimpses of his skills in prior years, but, 74 games into an 82 game season, he had only recorded 27 points. After being demoted to the fourth line for several games, the Wild coaching staff decided to make Dany a “healthy scratch” from the lineup for the first time in his career. After the announcement, Heatley said “it’s not a good feeling, but, at the same time, I’ll stay ready and be ready if they need me again.”
Well, fast forward the first round of the 2014 NHL playoffs where the Wild were in an epic seven-game battle with the Colorado Avalanche. The series was a back-and-forth matchup through the first 6 games. With the series tied at 3 games a piece, they moved onto Game 7 – winner takes all and advances to the second round of the playoffs. Dany Heatley, who was scratched from the lineup just a month earlier, not only played through the series, but, had a huge game when it mattered most. He scored a goal, but more importantly, he had two assists with one of those coming on the game-winning shot which propelled the Wild to a come-from-behind overtime victory. This is the Dany Heatley that was scratched from the lineup just one month prior, the Dany Heatley that continued to work through his struggles on the ice, the Dany Heatley who was true to his word and prepared to be ready if the team needed him again.
Being ready and prepared in sports is a key to success. Every player goes through ups and downs during the course of a season. Some of the downs are those that take you out of the game and you never know when you’ll get the opportunity to return. It will happen though, you’ll get the call to return to the game. Will you be ready?
This led me to a bigger, much more important, question – am I ready? Have my preparations been enough? If Jesus returned today, right now, would I be ready? Would you be ready? We all know that Jesus IS coming. We don’t know if it will be today….tomorrow…next week…next year…but the time will come. One might think that we have plenty of time. I mean, it’s been thousands of years since Jesus walked on Earth. He hasn’t come back yet, so what’s the rush? But, in all actuality, we need to prepare as if the time for His return is now. Being prepared comes by taking time to pray and being alone with God. It comes from acts of service and kindness toward others. It comes from stepping out from our comfort zone and being bold in our faith. Have you been preparing? If you’re not, what can you do to prepare yourself? Maybe, as a start, the first thing to do is to simply pose the question to yourself….Am I Ready? The answer may very well lead you to the next step.
Determination – it’s kind of a funny concept. It’s around us all the time – from the person who drags their sleepy body out of bed at 5am to workout before going into the office to the person who works 3 jobs just to feed their family – but lots of times we don’t even notice it. When we do though, it is a thing of beauty.
I had the opportunity to be a coach for my daughter’s traveling softball team last summer. It was a fairly young travel team, so, in the beginning of the year they had their typical struggles – not only on the diamond, but, also trying to relate to each other as a team. The “team” concept was new to many of the girls.
I don’t know that there was anything “mystical” about that season other than the fact that they went from an “ordinary team” to an “extraordinary team” when it counted. They had been playing well throughout the season, each player improving individually and the team improving as a whole. However, in the state tournament I noticed a change in each girl.
The thing that was impressive to me is that when I think of big games or series, there is usually someone who would be worthy of an MVP award. That wasn’t the case for this team in the state tournament. Yes, there were girls that played their typical high level of softball, but, there were game-changing plays by every single one of the 13 girls on that team throughout the tournament. At the start of the tournament, the changed I noticed was that girls, as a whole, were more determined than ever. Together they decided that now was the time that they would peak and that it was time for 13 girls to come together as 1 team. That was their common theme throughout the tournament – 13 for 1…13 girls for 1 team, 13 girls for 1 win, 13 girls for 1 championship. It was really a spectacular thing to watch and a sight to behold. The older girls made huge plays…the younger girls made huge plays. In the end, their motto really held true – 13 for 1. They did win the State Championship this year going 5-0 in the tournament and they went on to finish 13th in the national tournament.
Perhaps the most determined person ever to walk the earth was Jesus. I recently watched Passion of the Christ and was struck by the determination of Jesus as he was bloodied, beaten, flogged, and eventually crucified. Even while enduring pain that you and I can’t fathom his determination never wavered – he never looked back, never questioned God, and never quit. Through his determination and His love for us, he paid the ultimate sacrifice so that we could have eternal life.
Take pause when you see determination displayed by an athlete who is stretching themselves to the limit…just as those 13 girls did on the softball field that year. But try to maintain perspective and remember that the determination that we see in athletics pales in comparison to the determination of Jesus.
February 22, 1980. Olympic Center, Lake Placid, New York. To many, this was just another night in the world, but to the citizens of the United States and the Soviet Union it was much more than that. On this winter night in New York, perhaps the most historic hockey game of all time took place. The game has become known as the “Miracle on Ice.” The Soviet hockey team was arguably the greatest hockey team in the world. Team USA was a much less experienced collection teenagers who were playing college-level hockey. The Soviet Union led the United States 3-2 going into the 3rd period. At the 8:39 mark of the 3rd period, Mark Johnson’s shot slid under the legs of the Russian goalie to tie the game. Only a few shifts later, Mike Eruzione scored the go-ahead goal with 10 minutes left in the contest. Team USA held off a furious Soviet attack over the next 10 minutes. With the crowd chanting U-S-A…U-S-A time expired and the greatest comeback in Olympic hockey history was complete. The knock-off collegiate level hockey team comes back to beat the greatest hockey team in the world.
It is hard to think of a bigger comeback than that. However, today, as we celebrate Easter, we remember the single greatest comeback the world has ever seen – Jesus defeating death and the devil on the cross. However intense and electrifying the “Miracle on Ice” was, it, along with every other comeback in sports history, pales in comparison to Jesus’ victory when he rose from the dead. On that cross, He took upon my sins, took upon your sins and paid the ultimate price for all of them. Jesus was beaten, flogged, and eventually crucified on a cross. He felt real pain. He died a real death. Yet, three days later, he rose from the dead for you and I so that we can spend our eternal lives with Him in heaven. Now that…is the ULTIMATE comeback!
There are many things that influence the effectiveness of a team. Leadership, teamwork, hard work, and effort all contribute to success…or failure. Each of these factors is extremely important, and their importance can never be overstated. However, trust could be the most important of all characteristics within a team. Trust means to have faith in your teammates, and know that they have your back. Trust means to pass the ball to a teammate to take the game winning shot and knowing they’ll give their best effort. Trust will lead a team to victory by showing them that they can work together to achieve a common goal.
Even though it is very important to trust in your teammates, it is even more important to trust in God. So often as Christians, we disregard this trust and try to live our lives on our own. We try to take God’s role and plan out our lives in the way we feel would be most advantageous to us. In the long run, this never works. The best, and sometimes only, thing we can do to honor God is just to surrender to Him by putting complete and unconditional trust in Jesus, knowing that He has a plan for you and He will guide you.
We also need to trust God to answer our prayers. You might be praying for something, and it just doesn’t seem like God is listening, or maybe you have given up praying about it all together. God’s timing is perfect. Whether or not you like it, whenever He answers those prayers, it is at the best possible time and at a time when it will make the most sense in your life. Just as trusting in your teammates is difficult, so too is trusting in God. In fact, sometimes it is even more difficult. This can be a very challenging to trust that God will always be there for us, but in the end having that trust in God and the blessing that we receive will all be worth it.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight,” Proverbs 3:5-6