To a man, each of the 92 players who will take the field will be fulfilling a lifelong dream. Many of those dreams were play-acted years ago in backyards across the country, each little boy fantasising that he’d be the one making the game-winning play. He’d lift up the Lombardi Trophy with flashbulbs popping and millions looking on at home.
Fantasies like this aren’t limited to athletics. Some dream of giving a stirring Oscar speech. Others strum an air guitar at the latest stop on their world tour. The words “New York Times Bestseller” scrawled across a book cover with my name on it capture my imagination.
Though very few attain these vivid dreams, the desire is near-universal.
But some who do find themselves in the spotlight choose to redirect it elsewhere.
On week 13 of the 2017 NFL season, the league ran a promotion called ‘My Cause My Cleats,’ allowing players to wear specially-designed cleats promoting a cause of their choosing. The colourful footwear highlighted everything from personal foundations to well-known charities like the American Cancer Society.
A group of 10 Philadelphia Eagles made God’s glory their cause. They put together a short video explaining the design of their shoes and the motivation behind them.
One of the players says, “It’s not about making our name famous, it’s about making His name known to all mankind in everything that we do.”
This is simply reframing 1 Corinthians 10:31 in the language of the athlete.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
These men are using their position to represent Jesus and point others to Him. We have the same honor and opportunity, even if our jobs and activities aren’t as high-profile.
The Bible repeatedly tells Christians that their lives are not their own (1 Cor 6:19-20), that they are ambassadors for Christ (2 Cor 5:20) who are given stewardship of their gifts and talents (Mt 25:14-30) to make Christ famous (1 Pet 2:9).
This runs directly against the grain of the innate pull to put ourselves in the spotlight. If we are to accomplish it, we need the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and the accountability of brothers and sisters in Christ.
Athletes in Action, internationally a Cru ministry, helps athletes develop this mindset through their Ultimate Training Camps. These are high intensity, one week events that combine rigorous athletic competition with teaching of AIA’s 5 Principles. The first principle, the one athletes hold on to most, is called ‘Audience of One (Ao1).’
“Sports tends to be an idol for high-level athletes,” says Teg Tegellar, co-director of Ultimate Training Camps. “We really dive into their sport and look at, ‘how do you play your sport under the glory of God?’”
Thousands of athletes have completed these camps, including Chris Maragos and Trey Burton, two of the Eagles in the video mentioned above. These two athletes spearheaded the idea for a group of teammates to put the Ao1 message on their shoes.
“[Their sport is] the thing they love the most, and for many of them it transforms into ‘I love Jesus the most, and God has given me sport to glorify Him and to make disciples,’” says AIA staff member Luke Middendorf.
If you are watching the game (at 12:30pm on Monday 3rd February NZT), put yourself in the shoes of your favorite 49er or Kansas City Chiefs player and consider how you can turn from the temptation of putting the spotlight on yourself, and instead use the influence God has given you to redirect attention to Him.
Some Next Steps:
Read the article “Walking in the Spirit” to learn how to lean on the Holy Spirit for empowerment.
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