Take Triathlon. There are some pretty robust rules (not guidelines) about transition zones, where certain things are allowed to take place and punishments in place for the individual who fails to adhere. Going into a Triathlon without knowing your responsibilities during transitions is considered absolutely criminal.
Or take the player coming onto the field of play as a substitute. The manager’s arm round his shoulder, frantically barking last minute instructions about marking at set pieces and the more generic role of the player.
In every sport, competitors have specific roles and responsibilities to fulfil. It is crucial to know your role, your specific job and what is expected of you. Yet often there’s a gulf between knowledge and execution of the role. For many different reasons, we fail to deliver the role we’ve been asked to play. Sometimes because of a misunderstanding due to miscommunication, other times through an inability to deliver. But in the moment there aren’t many places to hide.
The Bible is clear what our role is when it comes to pointing sportspeople to Jesus, regardless of whether we know it (or not), we’re good at it (or not) or like it (or not).
Paul in his second letter to the church in Corinth very helpfully maps out the role of the Christian in the work of salvation:
“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart” (2 Corinthians 4 v 1).
Paul speaks specifically about the role of himself and his companions. He uses the refrain ‘we’ throughout, modelling to all believers what he knew his role to be when pointing people to Jesus.
Firstly, Paul says that he didn’t lose heart and didn’t hide. He of all people had every reason to hide and loose heart because of the trials and persecution he faced but he indicates that knowing where the good news came from prevented him from doing this. It is because and through God’s mercy that we have this good news to share.
The good news is not your news! You haven’t made it up or stumbled across it. No, you have been given this good news through the wonderful mercy of God so you don’t have to lose heart or hide!
Secondly Paul goes onto say:
“Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (v 2).
The secret and shameful ways that others were using in Corinth to sell the gospel and plead with people Paul has nothing to do with. He sets forth the truth plainly! Isn’t that wonderfully liberating? There isn’t a complex model or technique I need to master. Setting forth the truth plainly is the method, the technique, and there’s no order of merit or preliminary round I have to get through before I do this. Paul later explains his tactic because:
“for what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake”
What is your role in pointing people to Jesus? Simply share the truth of Jesus plainly. As you do this, people will find you compelling as your honest approach is before them and before God. Tell your friends that Jesus is Lord! Don’t make excuses, don’t compromise, don’t promote or excuse yourselves.
God’s mercy has enabled you to be a servant of the Lord Jesus, so serve him well. Unbelievably simple and yet it seems so incredibly hard to set forth the truth plainly to my sports friends.
Before you start analysing your performance in this area, it’s worth knowing that the Bible is also crystal clear on what God’s role is in pointing people to himself.
Later in verse 6 he says:
“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”
Can you see what the role of God is in salvation? It’s the same as when He created the world! He speaks and things happen. When He said ‘let there be light’, guess what? Look what he does in the hearts and lives of sportspeople because He’s done it in ours! He speaks, He makes His light shine in our hearts and enables us to see Jesus!
God does the saving work - that’s His role and I cannot do that, not with my sports friends, not with anybody! What an encouragement this is!
So what’s our role? To set forth the truth plainly. To say that Jesus Christ is Lord.
As we play our part in setting forth the truth plainly, God takes that truth and makes His light shine in the hearts of ours sports friends to enable them to see Jesus and respond in repentance and faith.
No place for hiding. For God has made His light shine in your heart and will use the truth YOU set forth plainly to let His light shine in the hearts of others.
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A weekly devotional for sports people