Few would argue with the statement that “for many, sport is an obsession”. Such obsessions are manifested in many ways. There are countless parents who are obsessed with their children becoming great athletes, achieving things they were never able to accomplish themselves. There are sports fans who may have very little talent themselves but who obsessively follow “their team”. There are athletes who spend every waking moment thinking about their sport of choice, and their every decision is made in the context of how it will affect their performance on the track, on the field, on the ice, or on the court.
Sport Psychologist Dr. Judd Biasiotto, in an article entitled Is Greatness Possible without Obsession? argues that in his experience with elite athletes, “obsession might be the most critical variable required to achieve greatness.” Biasiotto quotes NBA’s Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird, from his autobiography, to make his point.
As a kid, I always thought I was behind, and I needed that extra hour of work to catch up. Jim Jones once told me, “No matter how many shots you take, somewhere there’s a kid out there taking one more. If you dribble a million times a day, someone is dribbling a million and one.” Whenever I’d get ready to call it a day, I’d think, “No. Somebody else is still working. Somebody-somewhere is playing that extra ten or fifteen minutes and he’s going to beat me someday.” I’d practice some more and then I’d think, “Maybe that guy is practicing his free throws now.” So I’d go to the line and practice my free throws and that would take another hour. I don’t know if I worked more than anybody else did, but I sure worked enough. I still wonder if somebody-somewhere was practicing more than me. Maybe Michael Jordan.
There is no doubt that if you have chosen to pursue athletics at the highest level, your chosen sport must be a significant priority in your life. It will govern what you eat, how much sleep you get, and what you invest time in. But there must only be one obsession in your life, and that is your Lord and Saviour. If you read the Psalms, particularly those written by David, you will see a man fully obsessed with God. Today’s scripture from Psalm 25 gives us a glimpse of a man whose life revolved around his Lord. “My hope is in you all day long” (vs 5). “My eyes are ever on the Lord” (vs 15). “do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.” (vs 21). And David was called “A man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).
Take an honest look at your life. Has sport (or something, or someone else) become an obsession for you? Is it what you think of when you go to bed, and when you rise? Remember that your pursuits in sports are fleeting, but what you build with God is eternal. Addressing the early Greek athletes, Paul said: “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:25).
Pursue your sport of passion with excellence, but make sure your only “obsession” is pursuing the crown that lasts!