Finding God's Winning Spirit

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December 1, 2014 | Greg Smith | Devotional

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Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…”  Hebrews  12:1-2

 

As I have said many times Paul loved to use sports to teach about the Christian life – 1 Corinthians 9:24, 2 Timothy 4:7 and Philippians 3:13-14, to mention a few. Paul's favorite sports analogy for the Christian life was "running the race". Paul used running (marathons rather than sprints) to teach us about endurance, training, perseverance and focusing on our goal. This analogy is powerful as it talks about difficult paths, stumbling and the need for personal strength and commitment; all things needed to negotiate “the course” – life.

I find Hebrews 12:1-2 to be a little different. For me, the difference is that Paul is not using his typical sports analogy to teach us about living the Christian life but rather about the importance of our testimony. It is obvious that Paul wants us to perform well as individual Christians but not solely for our own benefit. We live the spirit- filled life as a witness to others.

His point here is that the athlete does not compete alone, as he or she is being observed by "a cloud of witnesses", or in our nomenclature, fans. From Paul’s point of view athletic ability, like all gifts from God, make athletes who they are and shows others who they serve. For Christian athletes, performance is not just an opportunity to glorify self; it is a chance to testify that Jesus Christ is Lord. Albert Pujols of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim  says it this way, “… at the end of the day as long as I glorify Him and those 45,000 people know who I represent, that’s what it’s about. It’s about representing God.”

Similarly, we are not living in a vacuum – people are watching. As Christians, our performance is not the “sum of our parts” but rather is an “out cropping” of the gifts given to us by God — it is our calling. We, like the Christian athlete, do not perform solely for personal victory in Christ but as a model for those around us.   

Quite often we hear a particular athlete say that he or she resents being called a “role model” just because they are successful. They say that it is unfair to be put in this situation and that they never volunteered for such responsibility. Two things come to my mind when I hear this. First, these athletes are probably not living the kind of lives they are proud of, and secondly, Christian athletes never say this.

 

(Excerpt from Sports Theology – Finding God’s Winning Spirit)

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