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