Athletes Bible Study | 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. 29 For 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

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