New Year, new you?
That’s often the chat as we tick over from one year into the next.
As cynical as we might be about it, early January is a good time to stop and reflect on the year gone and the year to come and to consider what it looks like to live as followers of Jesus. For those of us who love and compete in sport, it’s then a good time to do the same as we consider how we are operating in the different clubs and teams we spend our time in.
I love the American theologian Jonathan Edwards - a man who had a deep love for God, enjoyed living in the world and who resolved to live a wholehearted life of worship in all he did. At the age of 17 he began to write a number of ‘resolutions’ - commitments he made to God about how we has going to live.
Now most of us reading this may have made resolutions in the past which have been swiftly forgotten a few weeks later - but don’t let that discourage you from again making some goals for the year ahead.
These resolutions only come in light of God’s utter unfathomable grace and by faith and his work in us. We don’t strive in our own effort or to earn God’s love, we strive to live in response to what God has done, so that he gets all the glory.
Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 reminds us of this:
“To this end we always pray for you that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power that the name of the Lord Jesus may be glorified.”
So as we reflect at the start of a new year on what it looks like to be a Christian in sport, we do it by faith, by his power, for his glory.
Edwards had 70 resolutions (!) - here’s just five to challenge us this year as Christians in the world of sport:
The first resolution is unashamedly copied from Jonathan Edwards. It’s short. Simple. Urgent.
It is his call to seize life and live it. To enjoy all the amazing good gifts we have been given.
In 1 Corinthians 10:31 Paul says:
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
Sportsperson - you have been given gifts to play. To run, to catch, to jump, to cycle, to swim, to ski. So use them, enjoy them, give God praise for them in all you do.
This year, live. Play. And love it and praise the one who gave you the gifts to do it. Embrace every opportunity you have to use the skills you’ve been given and to enjoy the relationships you have with others in your sport.
Friend, you are not loved because of what you do. We say this a lot at Christians in Sport as we long for sportspeople to understand that their worth, their value, their identity, is not found in how they perform, or who they are, but in the one who loves them because of who he is and what he has done.
Edwards’ 25th resolution is:
"Resolved, to examine carefully, and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and to direct all my forces against it.”
The devil will want to pepper you with lies this year. To tell you that you lost the race because of a specific sin. To tell you that you’re injured because God doesn’t love you. These are all lies.
For all those who follow Jesus, Paul reminds us in Ephesians 1 that:
“He chose us in him before the foundation of the world . . . for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” .
Adopted not because of any special things you did but because of his love before the foundation of the world.
When disappointment strikes this year in your sport (and it will), remember this truth and resolve to preach it to yourself each and every day - you worth is not found in your performance, but in the everlasting love of our Father God.
In 2 Corinthians, Pauls says:
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away. Behold, the new has come!”
What a magnificent picture this is of being a Christian. If you have trusted in Jesus you are a new creation, a new being. So live as you now are, not as you once were.
What are the things you struggle with most in your sport?
Maybe it’s a disrespect of the umpires or officials in your sport?
Maybe it’s the dangerously crippling lows you feel whenever you lost your sport, causing you to lash out at friends or teammates?
Maybe it’s the bitterness or anger you feel towards God whenever something doesn’t go your way?
Edwards’ 56th resolution states:
“Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.
Friends, why don’t you resolve this year to march not to the beat of the world’s drum, or your coach’s drums, but to God’s?
Praise God we are not, as Paul reminds us elsewhere “saved by works.” But now, as new creations, why don’t you stop now and consider what it looks like for you this year to live out your identity as a “new creation.”
Stop now, consider where you are being prompted to change, and resolve to do it - not in your own strength or for you own glory, but by the power of the spirit and for God’s glory.
Paul continues in 2 Corinthians:
“He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ: Be reconciled to God.”
God has given you gifts to play sport, to coach sport, to be part of the world of sport in whatever way he has. And he has then deliberately placed you in your specific club, team or training group as his ambassador.
Can I challenge you this year to love your friends so radically so that you regularly “implore” them to “be reconciled to God”?
The world of sport needs the good news of Jesus and you have been sent as an ambassador to it. It’s one of the biggest cultures in the world and our friends, our colleagues, our teammates need one thing more than anything else - they need to be “reconciled to Jesus.”
At Christians in Sport we long to equip you to do this. We have loads of resources for you to work through and we have a Sports Mission Pack to give you tools to share the gospel with your mates.
Will you resolve this year to boldly share your faith with your sports mates?
Stop now and pray for them. Pray for the people God has put around you in your world of sport. And if you’re reading this and you’re not in a club or a team or training with others - why don’t you this year? The world of sport needs Jesus - go as his ambassador to it.
Finally, as we make some resolutions we need to remember that ultimately it is God’s work not ours. We would be fools to pour fresh effort into our life and witness in the world of sport without explicitly asking God for his help and to make it fruitful.
So stop now, remember that these resolutions are not an attempt to earn God’s acceptance but to live in response to it and go, go and live and speak for Jesus this year with a renewed confidence and a renewed boldness.
“Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.”
Jonny is the Communications Team Leader at Christians in Sport, one of the leaders of Town Church Bicester and plays his sport at Bicester Hockey Club.
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