NFL running back Shaun Alexander has a strong faith in Jesus Christ. And that compels him to live his life and to participate in his sport with excellence. He has been on championship teams from high school to the pros. But he has also had his share of criticism, injuries and difficult times.
Through the years, the Lord has taught him a lot about living with a spirit of excellence. Alexander encourages Christians to “walk in the spirit of excellence.” He reminds us that excellence involves living our lives with the right attitude and the right actions, big and small.
Read Ephesians 4:1-3
1 Therefore I, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, 3 diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds ⌊us⌋.
- What does the phrase “walk worthy of the calling you have received” mean?
- How do we live this out in our daily lives?
- What words in Ephesians 4:1-3 give us insights into how to live a life that honors the Lord?
- What are some concrete examples of how a person could follow Shaun Alexander’s directive to “walk in the spirit of excellence”?
Read 1 John 5:1-15
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of Him. 2 This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands.
3 For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden, 4 because whatever has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. 5 And who is the one who conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
6 Jesus Christ—He is the One who came by water and blood, not by water only, but by water and by blood. And the Spirit is the One who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7 For there are three that testify: 8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood—and these three are in agreement. 9 If we accept the testimony of men, God’s testimony is greater, because it is God’s testimony that He has given about His Son. 10 (The one who believes in the Son of God has this testimony within him. The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony God has given about His Son.) 11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
12 The one who has the Son has life. The one who doesn’t have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I have written these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
14 Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.
- What are some misconceptions that people often have about Christians?
- What parts of 1 John 5:1-15 give you the courage to wholeheartedly pursue excellence?
- What are some things for which you should confidently ask God?
Shaun Alexander says, “The best way to honor God is to be obedient. Whatever it is I’m doing, I want to be obedient. I want to pursue Him with excellence with all that I’ve got. That’s going to lead to true obedience and true love, which pleases God.”
Read Matthew 5:14-16
14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
- What are some ways that God has used excellence in your life as a light to attract others to Him?
- What are some of the other areas in your life where excellence could have a similar effect?
- How do you make sure that your life brings glory to God (and not glory to you)?
In his own words:
“When you strive for excellence, you are fulfilled in who you are, and you can have the greatest impact on the lives of others. I think the spirit of excellence helps to continue with everything we have so that we can get to the next test and pass it. Some people strive for excellence to glorify themselves or to look good in front of others. But if you have a spirit of excellence and you’re doing what God has told you to do, you can’t help but do something greater than you thought you could do and impact more people than you otherwise could have. Having a platform is one of my callings…. I’ve got friends who no one ever hears about, and all they do is pray. But they pray with a spirit of excellence. That is their calling. So their spirit of excellence launches me to go walk in my spirit of excellence. It all works together. You have to know who you are in Christ. You have to know what God has called you to do. Then you have to do that with everything in you. The spirit of excellence causes you to affect people when you don’t know that they’re watching. It’s not about putting on your Sunday best, but it’s about walking in that spirit of excellence. When people see that, they think, This Jesus must be the real deal.” – Shaun Alexander
- What part of Shaun Alexander’s quote above is most significant to you?
Here is a simple prayer:
“Lord, help me to live with a spirit of excellence, shining a light that will point people to faith in Jesus Christ. AMEN.”
Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 2, “The Spirit of Excellence,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes.