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True Competitor

Published on February 23, 2024

Dan Britton
                                                                  True Competitor

“Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart.”
— 1 Timothy 4:7-8, MSG


Not long ago I saw an athlete in the gym wearing a T-shirt with the saying, “No Pain—No Pain.” It was obviously a play on the old adage “No Pain—No Gain.” I watched him for 30 minutes while I ran on the treadmill. This guy was truly living out his shirt. I watched him talk to the ladies and visit with the gym staff. There wasn’t a drop of sweat on him.

Joining the gym and showing up is easy; working hard is not. It’s easy to value shortcuts as the keys to success. The easy way becomes the best way—not hard work and unwavering discipline. Many competitors live with this mindset and never fulfill their God-given potential. They waste their gifts. There is no progress without struggle. There is no growth unless we push beyond our normal limits. Many competitors want the win without the work. But the shortcut never leads to greatness. The easy road never makes you better.

Often, we carry this mindset right into our spiritual lives. Salvation is free, but sanctification is costly. While there’s nothing we can do to earn eternal life or a place in heaven, and no amount of effort earns us God’s love and acceptance, once we’re born again, the ongoing transformation process requires daily surrendering of ourselves and a supernatural work of God.

Some want the change without the work. We have been saved by grace through faith; it’s a gift to be received. But when the Gospel is presented as a quick prayer to add Jesus to someone’s life, a quick fix to make everything better, we are presenting a false gospel. This thinking simply says plug Jesus in and you’ll get everything you’ve ever wanted. No change, no sacrifice, no confession of sin, no sweat, no effort, no surrender. Jesus will give you peace and purpose if you just add Him to your already well-planned-out life…right?

If Jesus Christ becomes the Lord and Savior of your life, you can continue in the same direction, but why on earth would you? What a waste that would be. Jesus gives us a choice. His great love and sacrifice compels us to walk a different path, to go against the flow, and to be set apart. When you believe in Jesus and He gives you new life, you will want to do a total redirect, a literal 180-degree turn, saying, “God, I give up control of my life to You. It’s Your plan, not my plan; Your way, not my way.”

But it’s hard to give up control of our lives, isn’t it? Even to the God of the universe. We find it difficult and painful to let God make us into the men and women He destined us to be. Change comes hard, and it hurts. So we take the easy road in our spiritual lives—no spiritual sweat, no digging in to deep spiritual truths, no seeking after what pleases God, no discipline.

Unfortunately, the same disciplines that make us successful on the field of competition as coaches and athletes are not applied to our spiritual lives.

Just imagine if your sports team’s success was built on your devotion to Christ rather than your skills, your talents, your training, your discipline, the team’s game plan, and the coaching staff. Would your team have a winning record? Or would you be struggling to win a game?

Christ desires to take control of our lives—and He does a far better job. But be forewarned: Your life will not stay the same. God loves you so much that He says, “Come as you are.” But He also loves you too much to leave you in that condition. His goal is forgiveness, freedom, and fruit in the life of the believer. In Luke 9:23, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” But the results are so worth it!

God is waiting to transform you. He wants one-on-one time with you. He doesn’t want to become a key part of your life. Instead, He wants to become your life. Jesus wants to transform your life. We believe when competitors are transformed, they will transform the way sports are coached, played, and even watched. It’s our vision to see the world of sports redeemed for Christ. The platform of sport is arguably the largest and most influential platform in the world; the language of sport transcends gender, race, age, and nationality. Sport is truly the international language.

When you live out God’s game plan, you grow increasingly passionate about pursuing Him with everything you’ve got. You realize your faith isn’t something you leave on the bench. You are a player, not a fan! Instead, it helps define every aspect of who you are and how you compete. You’re not a Christian competitor; you are a Christian who competes. Who you are in Christ comes with you to the field. Your identity is in Christ, not in your sport. It doesn’t depend on your last performance or your win-loss record.

Becoming a true competitor means walking with Jesus in everything— on the field, at home, at school, at church, in the locker room. And that identity in Christ completely changes your mind and heart until you realize that everything you have comes from God. Every time you step onto the field of competition, your heart explodes with thankfulness because you are abundantly grateful for God’s blessings.

You have a deep conviction that your gifts, talents, and skills to play and to compete come from Him alone. And you never take them for granted. Every stride, swing, shot, pass, goal, and point is a response of gratitude for God’s goodness.

In competition, it’s easy to give God thanks when everything goes our way. When we score the touchdown or hit the home run or finish first, it’s easy to praise Him. But what about when we experience adversity or heartbreak? How do we respond then? Is our gratitude dependent on our circumstances or performance? Or will we look for God to turn our trials into testimonies? Do we seek God for what we can get from Him? Or do we seek Him to find Him alone?

If we only seek Him and thank Him for what He does, we will end up disillusioned and disappointed when He doesn’t do what we want Him to. God is not a lucky charm nor is He a rabbit’s foot. He desires that we seek Him simply to know Him.

Being a true competitor is about putting God first in every area. It means being thankful for who He is, not for what He can do for us. With a grateful heart, much can be accomplished. So let the competition begin.


Lord Jesus, I am responding to the call on my life to be a true competitor. I want to be transformed more and more into Your likeness so I can be used to influence my teammates, coaches, and even the world of sports. And I know I need help in order to become the person You have designed me to be. Amen.