Monday, February 21, 2011

Redefining Success

For legendary UCLA Bruins basketball coach John Wooden, everything he truly needed to know about life was taught to him and his brothers by his father, Joshua Wooden, on a farm in Centerton, Indiana. “Dad reasoned that whether we were better than someone else should not be the focus because our position in relation to others was out of our control,” Wooden explains.” We could could not control another’s performance, nor could we control how we would be ranked. All we could do was our best. He wanted us to try very hard to give the best possible effort to become the best we could be and let the results take care of themselves.”

John Wooden defines success this way: “Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. Within this framework, each person becomes the only one who can ultimately judge his or her own success.”

As a player, Wooden was part of a national championship team at Purdue in 1932. In 29 years as a college basketball coach, he led UCLA to 10 NCAA championships. His team’s enthusiasm and hard work led to competitive greatness – although he is quick to point out that winning should never be used as the barometer of excellence or success.

“We don’t have to be superstars or win championships to reach competitive greatness,” Wooden adds. “All we have to do is learn to rise to every occasion, give our best effort and make those around us better as we do it. It’s not about winning. It’s about learning to give all we have to give.”

Read Romans 12:11 (HCSB)
11 Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord.

  • What are some ways that we can show enthusiasm in sports and in life?
  • In what ways has enthusiasm helped you stay on track in your pursuit of excellence?
  • What are some things that have at times challenged your motivation?

Read Matthew 25:14-30 (HCSB)
14 “For it is just like a man going on a journey. He called his own slaves and turned over his possessions to them. 15 To one he gave five talents;denarii to another, two; and to another, one—to each according to his own ability. Then he went on a journey. Immediately 16 the man who had received five talents went, put them to work, and earned five more. 17 In the same way the man with two earned two more. 18 But the man who had received one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.
19 “After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five talents approached, presented five more talents, and said, ‘Master, you gave me five talents. Look, I’ve earned five more talents.’ 21 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!’
22 “Then the man with two talents also approached. He said, ‘Master, you gave me two talents. Look, I’ve earned two more talents.’ 23 “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave! You were faithful over a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Share your master’s joy!’
24 “Then the man who had received one talent also approached and said, ‘Master, I know you. You’re a difficult man, reaping where you haven’t sown and gathering where you haven’t scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went off and hid your talent in the ground. Look, you have what is yours.’
26 “But his master replied to him, ‘You evil, lazy slave! If you knew that I reap where I haven’t sown and gather where I haven’t scattered, 27 then you should have deposited my money with the bankers. And when I returned I would have received my money back with interest.
28 “‘So take the talent from him and give it to the one who has 10 talents. 29For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have more than enough. But from the one who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 30 And throw this good-for-nothing slave into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

  • What are some things these “talents” represent in your life?
  • What kind of personality and character did the first two servants display?
  • How was the third servant different?

Prayer: “Lord, help me to do my best with the talents you have given me. May I never compare myself to others. And, help me to train, compete and live my life with enthusiasm. Help me to always do my best, for your glory.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 12, “Redefining Excellence,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Monday, February 14, 2011

Laying It On The Line

Would Jesus have played football?

NFL Quarterback Jon Kitna thinks so. And he says that Jesus would have played with intensity: “Jesus would have been the most intense guy! He would have knocked people down, but then He would have helped them up and would have probably given them some Scripture along with it to encourage them.”

While some may scoff at Kitna’s assertion, he is emboldened by passages in the Bible that encourage believers in Christ to live with a paradoxical combination of singular focus and reckless abandon.

“There’s a right way and a wrong way to play the game,” Kitna says. “You just try to play it the right way – within the rules, and within the biblical confines of how you’re supposed to approach your craft. So as a quarterback, I think that’s the best way to lead.”

Perhaps that’s why Kitna has never been accused of being soft because of his faith. One of the things that he wants people to see is that he fulfills his role on the team by displaying a steadfast attitude of excellence that reflects the character of Christ. This means doing his best to be excellent during times of preparation and competition. The last thing he wants is for nonbelievers to see him as flaky and lacking in substance.

“You know, I think a lot of times as Christians we want to say, ‘Well, God will handle it,’” Kitna says. “Yeah, God does make things happen. But He also relies on us to handle what we can handle. He gives us abilities, and we have to do what our job is here on earth. And takes care of the circumstances we can’t control. He takes care of those things.”

Here are some of the verses that are important to Kitna as he lives out his faith in Christ.

Read John 12:32-36 (HCSB)
32 As for Me [says Jesus], if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all ⌊people⌋ to Myself.” 33 He said this to signify what kind of death He was about to die. 34 Then the crowd replied to Him, “We have heard from the scripture that the Messiah will remain forever. So how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus answered, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light.” Jesus said this, then went away and hid from them.

  • What does Jesus mean by saying “If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to Myself”?
  • What does being “sons of light” have to do with living a life of excellence in athletics and in other areas of your life?

Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (HCSB)
7 … Therefore so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. 8Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. 9But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

  • What are some possible explanations for the “thorn in the flesh” that the writer of 1 Corinthians (Paul) is talking about in this passage of Scripture?
  • Can you share a weakness that you consistently have been faced with in your pursuit of excellence?

Read 1 Peter 5:6-7 (HCSB)
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.

  • Why do you think humility is required before God can “exalt you in due time”?
  • What are some ways that you have been humbled in your life?
  • Can you describe when a time when a humbling situation gave you an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ with someone?

As a football player, John Kitna lays in all on the line. He says this requires spiritual accountability.

  • Who are some people you rely on for accountability as an athlete?
  • Who are some people you rely on for spiritual accountability?
  • How does that accountability help you give your all, as an athlete and as a person?

PRAYER: “Heavenly Father, strengthen me to do my best for you. Keep my attitude humble. Help me to overcome ‘thorns in the flesh’ in my life. Let me shine as a light for you.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 11, “Laying It On The Line,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Making a Mark

Kay Yow was the head women’s basketball coach for the North Carolina State Wolfpack from 1975-2009. During that time, she led her teams to more than 700 victories and 20 trips to the NCAA tournament. She was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2002.

Her journey to faith in Christ began when a young lady named Lori Moore from Campus Crusade for Christ asked to come speak to Yow’s basketball team after a practice. Moore presented the gospel to the team, and one person trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior that day – Coach Kay Yow. Soon after, Yow got connected to a local Bible-teaching church, was baptized, and began living for Christ.

Yow coached the USA Women’s Basketball team to a gold medal in the 1988 Olympics, even though she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. She battled cancer more than 20 years. She was presented with the inaugural FCA Kay Yow Heart of a Coach Award in 2008 by Fellowship of Christian Athletesfor a lifetime of living for Christ as a person and a coach. She died in January 2009.

During her career, Yow rarely kept track of her accomplishments, and she didn’t let cancer keep her from living a life that glorified God. She was determined to make every moment count. She always keyed in on the word “attitude,” believing that to be the secret to being successful.

She said, “I love to study Jesus’ attitude in all of the situations that He faced and how He responded and how He dealt with things. That’s the exciting part for me – to not just try to understand excellence in the field of sports, but in a life guided by Jesus’ example. He was an example for what it takes to have excellence. And to me, excellence is all about glorifying God.”

Two of the questions that she would ask herself were:

  1. “What am I doing today?”
  2. “What mark am I making today?”

She wanted to make a mark on other people’s lives, to inspire them to be their best and encourage them to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There are many verses that guided her as a person and as a coach. We can learn much from these verses.

Read Titus 2:6-8 (HCSB)
6 In the same way, encourage the young men to be self-controlled 7 in everything. Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. 8 Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be ashamed, having nothing bad to say about us.

  • How can a lifestyle of excellence set an example for others?
  • Describe a time when someone taught you about excellence by their actions.
  • Describe a time when you were able to teach others about excellence through your actions.

Read Proverbs 3:12 (HCSB)
12 for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in.

Read Revelation 3:19 (HCSB)
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent.

  • How important do you think good character and integrity are in leading others to excellence?
  • How easy or difficult is it for you to receive correction, whether it’s from a coach, a parent, an employer, or a friend?

Read Luke 6:39-40 (HCSB)
39 He also told them a parable: “Can the blind guide the blind? Won’t they both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

  • Have you ever been under the leadership of someone who didn’t seem to know what he or she was doing?
  • What challenges did that scenario create?

Read Luke 6:43-45 (HCSB)
43 “A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit. 44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs aren’t gathered from thornbushes, or grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

  • What do we learn from the parable of the tree and its fruit?
  • Can you give an example of how a person speaks “from the overflow of the heart”?
  • In what ways can you make sure that the words you speak and your actions bring forth good and not evil?

Prayer: “Lord, help me to realize that I am making a mark on people’s lives every day. Help me to live a godly example before them. Help me to make a mark on their lives that is greater than sport. Help me to influence them for eternity.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 10, “Making a Mark,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes