James 4:17 Anyone then who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins.
If we are honest as Christians, we typically know if we have sinned or are sinning. Unless tarnished, our God-given conscience tells us if we have committed an act of sin. Earlier in his book, James gives an insightful progression to sin that a believer can relate to. “…but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15). Christian academics call such acts sins of commission, that is willful acts of doing something that violates God’s commands in Scripture. Examples might be lying, cheating, stealing, committing adultery etc.
But James speaks of something different later in James Chapter 4 (vs 13-17). He is not referring to us doing something and in doing so sinning, but rather the sin of omission, which is not doing what we know we should. As a believer, this type of sin may be more difficult for us to recognize in our lives. Some examples of sins of omission could include not sharing Christ with others, not praying, not caring for those who are in need.
Read in context in chapter 4, James speaks of those who boast about what they will be doing. Their lives are all figured out. “I will live in this city and this house until the day I die”. “I will never leave this church”. “I will work at this place until retirement”. “I will win a Gold medal”. James said it is arrogant to speak in such a way, but rather we should say “If it is the Lord’s will, I will do such and such”. There are things that should be absolutes in our lives such as our commitment to Christ and our commitment to a marriage, as breaking these commitments would be a sin, but when we make absolutes about things that are not commands of God, we do not allow God to work his will in our life, and in doing so we sin.
Athletes need to set goals and be disciplined in all areas of their lives, but there is wisdom in holding these things with an open hand. Akin to a small child who sticks their fingers in their ears and screams “I can’t hear you” when they know undesirable instructions are coming from a parent, as Christian Athletes we can be so set on what we want and the goals we have, that we can likewise drown out the voice of the Lord. In doing so we do not “do what we ought to do” and we are guilty of the sin of omission.
The best practical advice for a Christian Athlete, in fact any believer, is to hold our lives open to the Lord. Continue to walk down the path you feel God has chosen for you and do so with excellence and commitment, but always be keenly aware of God’s voice and be willing to sacrifice what you feel is dear to you for what is dear to the Lord. As Paul so aptly said, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Romans 12:1). If we are not willing to sacrifice our lives, our wants, our desires, and dreams for the sake of Christ, we cannot be useful disciples. He may not ask you to forego them, but you must be willing to do so.
Come before the Lord today and let him know that you do not want to miss out on the tasks and the calling he has for your life. Ask him to convict you in areas that need conviction and then repent quickly and choose to walk on a path of obedience. Don’t be guilty of the sin of omission.