“If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all” (Isaiah chapter 7, verse 9) or in layman's terms - define what your values are or the world will. It is vital that athletes undercover their true value in God and actively pursue his truth in the world of competitive sports, where value is wrapped so tightly around the neck of performance it suffocates athletes of their worth and reduces it to a mere number on the results board.
Any talent or gift God blesses someone with can be used against them, unless they can anchor themselves in the one who provided them with the gift. Many Christians have walked away from sports because they have acknowledged how difficult it is to not become self-centred and lose sight of God. However, if God has given an individual an athletic gift, we as believers should come alongside them, acknowledging God's blessing and encourage them in their walk with God within the community of their sport.
Show the grace of God
There is an incredible opportunity and calling specifically for athletes to show the grace of God within sports, to challenge the common belief that you are defined by your result. Athletes understand one another on a level that cannot truly be understood by outsiders. They dedicate the majority of their early lives to a singular event and have to navigate how to define themselves in the world that idolises gold medals.
As Christians, we have the freedom to play the game because we love it and can see the bigger picture beyond it. Partnering with God in sport is a privilege, because you know whatever the outcome God has a purpose and a plan (Romans chapter 8, verse 28). Our pillars of performance within sport are the same as those outside of it which is to love God and one another (Matthew chapter 22, verses 34-39).
When you are secure in God’s strength and purpose, you can freely celebrate your opponent’s achievements while denying the temptation to be jealous. When done with a genuine heart of excitement, this simple act of celebrating another in a culture that's sole focus is individual performance speaks so loudly of God’s goodness and security.
What you value
Defining what you value will dictate how you want to compete as an athlete and provides the markers necessary to prevent yourself from drifting off and grasping at the unattainable world value of golden self-prestige. For example, if authenticity was your chosen value you would not attempt to pretend to be something you are not just for sponsorships or a team mates favour, likewise having a humble attitude will prevent you from becoming prideful (Proverbs chapter 16, verse 18) and you will respect your opponents abilities.
Jesus calls us to use our talents and not hide them away for fear of using them wrongfully (Matthew chapter 25, verses 14-30). As an athlete, our ability to partner with God protects us in a culture that is trying desperately to redefine us. Look inwardly and examine your motives and values. Ask God to reveal if they need to be realigned with His calling so you can perform boldly with Him without fear of failure or losing your faith.
Mhairi-Bronté Duncan plays Curling for New Zealand and uses her experiences as an athlete to inspire her writing.