Athlete Devotional: Karen Hughes

Being an athlete that has faith in Christ is weird, it’s almost an oxymoron. Athleticism, at its core, is all about displaying your own strength, power, and abilities, while faith in Christ is supposed to be all about displaying His strength, power, and abilities. Essentially, calling yourself a Christian athlete is contradictory. My parents always reminded me before a meet or competition that what I was about to do was all for the glory of God. How is it that we glorify God with how fast we can run, how well we can head a soccer ball, or how hard we can spike a volleyball? Romans 12 is a great chapter that emphasizes the major keys of how we ought to live, and you bet I’m about to tell you to pull out your Bible and read it. Paul, the author of Romans, commands those with spiritual gifts to use them, and commands His children to not discourage those from using their gifts. Similarly, for  athletes, God has gifted us with physical abilities that we are at an obligation to use in order to glorify Him. To those that are able to wake up and run ten miles and still go about their day, do it, simply because God allows and equips you to, it behooves us to not let our gifts go to waste. We should compete because we become a tool for the Lord in a ministry opportunity and we become a servant to the Kingdom of God, something all believers in Christ have been commissioned to. Competing allows us to be a witness for Christ, a seed to plant, a Bible to read; sometimes we are the only vessel for Christ someone may come across. Of course, being an athlete does not mean that this is the only way to glorify God, the same would apply to those with a beautiful singing voice, or those with the ability to minister to the lost. It is advantageous for believers to manifest what God has gifted us. Athleticism is a way to worship Christ, and as a reminder to thank Him every second that He has gifted us with bodies that can endure double-over time, two hour lifting sessions, and 6 am practice. Grammatically, a “Christian Athlete” would imply that Christian is an adjective, which is often how faith is described: “I’m tall, athletic, blonde, and Christian”. But the word “Christian” is the noun, and athlete is the adjective. Our identity is found in Christ, not the other way around, God is too glorious and awesome to be found in our identity. Ultimately, calling yourself a student athlete comes with enough assumptions; don’t let the term “Christian athlete” become another stigma. Naming yourself as a follower of Christ means more than putting Philippians 4:13 in your Instagram bio, or giving glory to Him only after a win. It’s about being the example of what an athletic Christian looks like and setting yourself apart at a meet or game. A ref or official should be able to look at an Eastern jersey and recognize that this student won’t give them a hard time, will be an encouragement  to others, and keep a level temperament. Athletics should just be another realm of ministry to us, not a pedestal to climb upon. There is a Celtic Prayer that prays “…not to fly from the world, but to be involved with the world. I am in the world but also in the presence of Jesus.” The rest of the world wants to put athletes on that pedestal, and as Christians we should put Jesus in front of us on the pedestal.

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