James 1: 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
One of the characteristics I have always admired in sports is consistency. While consistent performance is admirable, more impressive to me is consistent character. There will be days where your shot is off, where you don’t have the energy you usually have, or where you have had a bad day at home, but what attitude do you bring to the track, the field, the road, the pool or the ice? Whether it was when I was an athlete looking to coaches or teammates, or when I was a coach myself looking at fellow coaches or my players, I have always appreciated individuals who demonstrate consistently positive characteristics – what many would call “a class act”. I recently watched my favorite hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and one of our team leaders, John Tavares, was called upon in overtime to take a penalty shot to decide the game. As he skated down towards the net he stick-handled the puck and it slid away from him. It was painfully embarrassing as he didn’t even get a shot off and we lost the game (it was on the Sports “Biggest Fails” for the next week). The next day I heard an interview with a reporter who went to the dressing room after the game. He, and the throngs of other reporters wondered whether Tavares would commit to his regular post-game routine and address the reporters, or whether under the circumstances he would bail. Much to this reporter’s delight, Tavares came out and took the lumps. The reporter said: “John Tavares is a consummate professional! You always know what you’re going to get”. What a tremendous complement.
If you are wanting to be a light for Christ as a Christian Athlete, you will need to be, or become, a consistent person. Not perfect, but consistent. One of my favorite quotes is from Ralph Waldo Emerson who once said: “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.” Like it or not, the second you tell people you are a Christian, all eyes will be on you and watching your every move. While you can allow that to paralyze you or cause you great anxiety as you try to perform and live up to some great expectation, God isn’t asking you to do that. God is simply asking that you commit to a process of sanctification in which the Holy Spirit fashions you to emulate Jesus more and more each day. He will not force you to undertake that transformation, but rather eagerly wait for you to submit and “work out your salvation”. “12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13).
If we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and sanctify us, then we should increasingly see the Fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control) becoming more evident in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). And when that happens, we can become consistent lights for Christ so that God can be glorified. “16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). Choose to be a consistent believer who not only reads the word of God, but puts it into practise. As James said: “22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22). Are you a consistent Christian, one whom those around you can count on to exhibit consistent, godly character? If not, make the commitment to God today, to become such a person.