Daily Devotional- Adopting the Mindset of an Athlete
Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
If you are a current or former athlete, you can understand how taxing competition can be physically and mentally. Even if you do not have an athletic background, you have likely watched or been around enough athletic events to see how difficult training and competing can be on someone. One thing that many successful athletes have in common is their laser-like, single-minded focus on their goal. Superstar and legendary athletes like Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Ted Williams, and many others all describe how their intense, directed focus allowed them to “get in the zone” at different points during games. Once they are in this zone, the game slows down, they become more relaxed, their physical output and awareness is heightened, and they are more apt to be able to perform at elite levels. Interestingly enough, Paul uses many athletic metaphors in his letters to the different churches around the Mediterranean Rim.
In 1 Corinthians, he alludes to the crown wreaths that athletes win at games like the Isthmian and Olympic and urges Christ followers to not go after such perishable prizes. Paul is modeling intensely concentrated focus in order to bring as many people to faith in Jesus Christ as possible. The point here is that being in an athletic mindset or at least struggling physically like an athlete can help us train ourselves for the struggle of spreading the Gospel. People who make physical training and exercise a part of their daily lives understand what it is like to put themselves into uncomfortable places. There are many times during an exhausting workout session where the people have to remind themselves of the original goal in order to keep moving. If you do not regularly put yourself through physically demanding circumstances, you may miss out on cultivating this intense focus that Paul is urging us to attain. Can you remember a time when you were able to “get in the zone” while doing a physical activity? How can you use intense focus like this for the sake of the Gospel?