2 From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me, but they have never defeated me. 3 My back is covered with cuts, as if a farmer had plowed long furrows. 4 But the Lord is good; he has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly. – Psalm 129:2-4
There is a myth about Christians that has been around for some time: Christians are soft, passive, and merely doormats for people to walk over. As you can imagine, those attributes don’t fit too well in the context of sports and I remember feeling the tension as I tried to honor God and compete at a high level. This myth, in my opinion, is why so many Christian athletes feel the need to take off their Christian “hat” while playing sports. The world has convinced us that “in-between the lines” we must become someone else to play tough and competitive.
What most Christians forget, including myself, is that we come from the most persecuted and targeted group in human history and yet, here we are. As the psalmist writes, “From my earliest youth my enemies have persecuted me, but they have never defeated me.” The people of God are perseverant. We might endure suffering, mocking, pain, but we proclaim through it all that our God is good. We can do so because our very Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, modeled perseverance and toughness as He endured our pain and punishment on the cross.
What is toughness and competitiveness without perseverance? One can say they play tough and compete, but if that only occurs during good times then so what. For Christian athletes, persevering through suffering and hard times is in our heritage and so we are not shaken. We look to Jesus and are reminded that He is with us in the good times and bad; we read scripture and find countless stories of God’s people persevering. Contrary to the world, our toughness and competitiveness are not used to oppress and destroy the opponent, but rather we persevere with toughness and competitiveness to glorify God and to display His strength within us.
“For perseverance is not resignation, putting up with things the way they are, staying in the same old rut year after year after year, or being a doormat for people to wipe their feet on. Endurance is not a desperate hanging on but a traveling from strength to strength. There is nothing fatigued or humdrum in Isaiah, nothing flatfooted in Jesus, nothing jejune in Paul. Perseverance is triumphant and alive.” – Eugene Peterson, Long Obedience in the Same Direction
- Have you been taking your Christian “hat” off to compete? If so, repent.
- Prayerfully reflect over Jesus enduring the cross for us.
- Ask God to fill you with Christ’s perseverance.