PRYOR, OK —
Most people know that the Super Bowl is scheduled for this Sunday. It is one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Football fans are very excited, although they hate to see the season come to an end. It seems that sports have been popular for a long time. In 2 Timothy 2:5, Paul used this illustration: “And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” In the context of the letter, Paul was urging Timothy to be strong in living a Christian life. I would like to share some elements that will help one be successful in athletics or religion, or both.
First, we must abide by the rules. An athlete cannot be victorious without abiding by the rules. He cannot disregard the rules he doesn’t like; nor can he add his own rules. Likewise, in order for us to be Christians, we must abide by God’s rules, the Bible. We cannot make our own creeds and expect God to give us a crown because we have obeyed our own laws. We must go strictly by God’s word. He is the One who makes the rules.
In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” So God’s word is all we need. In fact, it is all we are allowed to have in religion.
Next, we should be enthusiastic. In Galatians 4:18, Paul said, “But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.” Certainly all good athletes are enthusiastic about their particular sport, and not just when the coach is watching. Similarly, to be successful, a Christian should be enthusiastic about Jesus Christ. This zeal should be exemplified seven days a week, not just on Sunday.
Training is another very important element. An athlete does not compete until he has spent many hours in training. He knows the importance of conditioning his body and being in shape for his sport. The more training an athlete has, the better he is. The same can be said about Christians. Christian efficiency does not come by chance.
A fourth element of success is teamwork. We do not all have the same talents. In baseball, different talents are needed for catcher, pitcher, infielder, outfielder, and hitter. Different talents are needed for various positions in football, basketball, hockey, soccer, and many other sports. The same is true in religion. Some can preach, others can teach classes, others can sing, others can set examples, others are leaders, and still others are followers. Each of these talents is needed. Much more can be accomplished by working together as a team than could be done through individual effort.
And then, a Christian, as well as an athlete, must exercise self-control. Both must have the self-control to give up certain activities and certain kinds of food. It takes a great deal of self-control to love your enemies and to do good to those who harm you.
To some, it may sound like a whole lot of work. They may not think that it is worth it. But a working, dedicated Christian is the happiest person in the world. He can say, as did Paul in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”
A dedicated Christian, like an athlete, loves his life and is rewarded for his work. An athlete competes for a perishable crown, but a faithful Christian will receive an imperishable crown, the greatest crown ever. He will receive a crown of life. By believing and obeying the Bible, each one of us can be a successful Christian, and we can look forward to an eternal life with God in heaven.