Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. (KJV)
If you have had success as an athlete, especially elite success, there is no doubt that you have had to work hard; you have had to sacrifice much to get to where you are. However, there is much more to it than that. In David Epstein’s book, The Sports Gene, he provides pretty conclusive evidence that elite athletes are genetic freaks. He refers to the “Matthew Effect”, a term coined by sociologist Robert Merton. It is taken from the Bible verse Matthew 25:29. “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”
The reality is that if you are excelling in a sport, you likely have an unfair advantage. You may have a ridiculous VO2 Max (the measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that an athlete can use). You may be abnormally strong, abnormally flexible or perhaps you have fantastic eyesight (like 90% of major league baseball players). God has blessed you with some special abilities and talents.
Between your amazing God-given abilities and your hard work ethic, there is the danger of becoming rather self-sufficient in all you do. As athletes we can come to the dangerous conclusion that with all our talents we can actually be of value to God. And beyond looking at ourselves, many of us fall into the trap of looking at another person and all their talents and we say: “wow, they would make a great Christian”. This is a false conclusion.
If we study the scriptures, we quickly realize that our value to God does not come in our strength or our abilities; it comes in our weakness. Psalm 147:10 says: “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man”. The author of Psalm 116 also understood this concept as he rightly understood that the Lord delights when we die to ourselves. “15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (KJV). Likewise in Galatians 2:20 we read: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
For God to fulfill his purposes in your life, you must first die to yourself, and die to your false understanding that he needs your talents to further his kingdom. What God needs is your absolute surrender to Him, and that requires you to metaphorically die, to be crucified with Christ so that he can now fully live in you. Now in that place, with that frame of mind, you are useful to God.
Pray to God today and ask him to help you die to yourself and your aspirations, so that you can take on much bigger tasks. Consider for a moment that the supernatural, all-powerful creator of the universe is personally inviting you to partake in what he is doing. He is entrusting you with somehow positively affecting one of his precious creations. How awesome is that! Just remember that while God may very well use your talents to further his kingdom, it is not your talents he is interested in. God is interested in capturing your heart; he is desiring your full surrender so that you can be effective in accomplishing the “good works” God has prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10).