Rest & Refreshment

We all need rest. Rest allows us to refresh, to replenish, to be ready for the next challenge that is ahead. Whether it be a sports team that takes a break between heats or innings or periods in the game, or a person working hard at their job throughout the day, we all need rest. God set the example for us when He rested on the seventh day of creation. And He wasn’t even tired!

  • How do you unwind after a busy day?

Read Mark 6:30-44 (HCSB)
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to Him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a remote place and rest for a while.” For many people were coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat. 32 So they went away in the boat by themselves to a remote place, 33 but many saw them leaving and recognized them. People ran there by land from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 So as He stepped ashore, He saw a huge crowd and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then He began to teach them many things.

35 When it was already late, His disciples approached Him and said, “This place is a wilderness, and it is already late! 36 Send them away, so they can go into the surrounding countryside and villages to buy themselves something to eat.”

37 “You give them something to eat,” He responded. They said to Him, “Should we go and buy 200 denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?”

38 And He asked them, “How many loaves do you have? Go look.” When they found out they said, “Five, and two fish.”

39 Then He instructed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in ranks of hundreds and fifties. 41 Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke the loaves. He kept giving them to His disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 Everyone ate and was filled. 43 Then they picked up 12 baskets full of pieces of bread and fish. 44 Now those who ate the loaves were 5,000 men.

Now read Mark 6:30-44 in The Message (MSG)
30 The apostles then rendezvoused with Jesus and reported on all that they had done and taught. 31 Jesus said, “Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.” For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat.

32 So they got in the boat and went off to a remote place by themselves. 33 Someone saw them going and the word got around. From the surrounding towns people went out on foot, running, and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus arrived, he saw this huge crowd. At the sight of them, his heart broke—like sheep with no shepherd they were. He went right to work teaching them.

35 When his disciples thought this had gone on long enough—it was now quite late in the day—they interrupted: “We are a long way out in the country, and it’s very late. 36 Pronounce a benediction and send these folks off so they can get some supper.”

37 Jesus said, “You do it. Fix supper for them.” They replied, “Are you serious? You want us to go spend a fortune on food for their supper?”

38 But he was quite serious. “How many loaves of bread do you have? Take an inventory.”

That didn’t take long. “Five,” they said, “plus two fish.” 39 Jesus got them all to sit down in groups of fifty or a hundred—they looked like a patchwork quilt of wildflowers spread out on the green grass! 40 41 He took the five loaves and two fish, lifted his face to heaven in prayer, blessed, broke, and gave the bread to the disciples, and the disciples in turn gave it to the people. He did the same with the fish. 42 They all ate their fill. 43 The disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftovers. 44 More than five thousand were at the supper.

Consider these questions:

  • Why did the disciples need a rest? How were they intending to spend their rest time? (see verses 30-32)
  • How did Jesus actually provide rest and refreshment for everyone around Him? (see verses 33-44)
  • The disciples thought they were getting a break (v 31), but they ended up serving. What does this passage say to you about the use of your free time?
  • How can you use your free time this week in a God-pleasing way?

Prayer: Thank you for the rest you give to my body, my mind and my soul. Give me the wisdom to know how to balance the right amount of work and rest each day, and throughout each week. And while I am resting, remind me of the lessons that I learned in Mark 6:30-44 about rest, refreshment and serving others, living my life in a God-pleasing way. AMEN.

Athletes Bible Study | Tested by Praise??

We normally think of the toughest tests of our character and determination to be when we have to overcome adversity, make it through difficult times, or conquer challenges. There is no doubt that each of those times in our lives has a purpose. The Bible says that God allows such difficulties to test us and purify us. In those moments, we are stretched and challenged in extreme ways, and by facing the adversity we come out stronger, wiser, and more prepared for the next challenge of life. Like the processes of purifying silver and smelting gold, God uses tough times to test us.

Proverbs 17:3 (HCSB)
3 A crucible for silver, and a smelter for gold, and the Lord is the tester of hearts.

When silver is mixed, or suspected to be mixed, with base metal, it must be subjected to such a test as the cupel to purify it. And gold also must be purified by the action of the fire. So God tries hearts. He sends afflictions which penetrate the soul, and give a man to see his state, so that he may apply to the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, to destroy what cannot stand the fire, to separate and burn up all the dross.

-Adam Clark, A Commentary and Critical Notes

However, there are other ways we are tested also.

One way is very subtle. This particular way doesn’t appear to be a test at all. It feels like a reward for a job well done. It seems like the proper adulation for our hard work or achievement. This test can be so boosting to our ego that we totally overlook the fact that it is a test.

One of the toughest tests of our character is how we respond when we receive praise and admiration heaped upon us.

Proverbs 27:21 (HCSB)
21 A crucible for silver, and a smelter for gold, and a man for the words of his praise.

Did you see the test in Proverbs 27:21? We are tested by the words of praise that are given to us.

Let’s be honest. We all like to be praised. We love to hear, “Good job!” or “Great work!’ or “You look amazing!” or whatever it is that causes us to puff up with pride. But too many of those words can cause us to become conceited, self-centered, and self-dependent. Too much praise and we begin to “believe our own press clippings,” as coaches like to say. We need to maintain a proper perspective on ourselves, on God, and on life. Otherwise, shortly after the lavish praise we will swell up with pride and then we will fall.

Proverbs 16:18 (HCSB)
18 Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.

Proverbs 11:2 (HCSB)
2 When pride comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 18:12 (HCSB)
12 Before his downfall a man’s heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.

Matthew 23:12 (HCSB)
12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

If you read these verses carefully, you will notice that it is OK for honor to be given to a person who loves God. It is OK to be given an award, or for a complimentary article to be written about you, or for your team leader to acknowledge you for a job well done. The key in the midst of all of this praise is to maintain humility. When you stay humble, you can rightly respond to the praise given to you by others.

Here are a couple of practical ways to handle praise:

  1. Say, “Thank you.” When someone compliments you, simply smile, look them in the eye, and say, “Thank you.” Receive the compliment with gratitude.
  2. Give praise to God. With all sincerity, deflect the praise to God. He is the provider of all of your gifts, talents, and abilities. He works through you to accomplish all of the good things that you do. Simply say, “Praise God” and let it go at that.

So what do we learn from this lesson?

  1. God allows testing to come into our lives to purify us, to test our hearts.
  2. Sometimes the test is through difficult times.
  3. Sometimes the test is through praise.
  4. The way we handle ourselves in difficult times and when we receive praise can either point people toward faith in Christ or away from faith in Christ.
  5. We show ourselves to be faithful to God when we keep a humble attitude, not prideful.
  6. When we receive earthly praise, we should maintain a humble attitude and give praise to God.

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.”

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

Athletes Bible Study | 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. 8 Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. 9 But 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 it 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

Athletes Bible Study | 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 Athletes for 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

No Pain, No Gain

Chris Byrd is a former Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Although he lives in Las Vegas, NV, aka “Sin City,” he doesn’t allow the sinfulness of his city to consume him.

He says, “For me, I put Christ first. I still do the same things I’ve always done. I stay home when I’m training so I can be in church and not in some secluded place. I want to live my life like I live every day. I’m a boring guy. I don’t do anything. I don’t know what happens in Vegas. I don’t know anything about this city.”

Boxers are among the most disciplined athletes, and Byrd is certainly no exception. Even though he lives in Vegas, he has somehow managed to shield himself from the worldly distractions. His ability to stay focused has been a work in progress that dates back to his early days growing up in Flint, Michigan.

Byrd’s parents are part of his boxing team. His father is his trainer, and his mother is often seen in his corner on fight night. He began amateur boxing at the age of 10, and by the age of 23 he had racked up 275 amateur wins and had claimed three US amateur titles. As a middleweight, he won the silver medal a the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and won the gold medal at the 1992 Canada Cup.

Everything seemed perfect in his life at that time. He was married to his high-school sweetheart, and was a proud father. But the one key ingredient that he lacked was a relationship with God. When his wife began taking their daughter to church, Byrd began to take notice. Then, when his wife later gave her heart to Christ, his interest was really piqued – although not necessarily in a positive way.

He says, “She got saved and I was like, ‘Wow, what’s that? I’m not going in that direction because I don’t want to be like that.’ My brother and sister-in-law had gotten saved five years earlier, and I thought they were strange, so I didn’t want to be like that.”

As his wife and daughter continued their spiritual walk, Byrd quickly started to feel left out. Finally, he started to tag along with them and eventually had a miraculous change of heart. He says, “I went a few weeks and really wasn’t listening. But one week I listened, and God just convicted my heart so bad. I truly understood why Christ died for me. I walked that aisle [of the church, to talk with one of the pastors], and someone led me to the Lord.”

By then, Byrd was embarking on his professional boxing career, and he desired to compete in the heavyweight division. He was so convinced that this move was part of God’s plan, the prayed for supernatural intervention. He told the Lord in prayer, “If I can be a heavyweight,  I will be a witness for You. I won’t forget about You. It’s going to be all about You.”

God answered his prayer, and in April 2000 he defeated Vitali Klitschko in Berlin, Germany for the WBO title. He lost that title six months later, but in December 2002 he claimed the IBF title by defeating Evander Holyfield.

But the Lord taught him a lesson in humility vs pride in a fight in September 2003. He was battling Fres Oquendo, and although he won the fight by a decision of the judges, it was very controversial. Many people thought he lost the fight. He was embarrassed, humbled, and put into his place. He said he learned the hard truth found in Proverbs 16:18.

Later, he eventually lost his IBF title. But he still found ways to use his platform as a heavyweight boxer to share God’s love with others. Even through his losses, his demeanor and strong moral character made a lasting impression on the fans and the boxing world.

Read Proverbs 16:18 (HCSB)
18 Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.

  • What do you learn from this verse?
  • How would you apply this verse to your life?

Read 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 (HCSB)
25 Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. 26 Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. 27 Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

  • What does v 26 mean?
  • How do you think purpose works together with discipline?
  • Is it possible for your discipline to ultimately have little meaning? Why do you say so?

Read Romans 6:12-13 (HCSB)
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. 13 And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness.

  • What are some things that challenge your physical discipline?
  • What methods do you use to overcome those challenges?
  • What are some things that challenge your spiritual discipline?

Read Luke 12:48 (HCSB)
48 … Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.

  • What are some things that are required of you as an athlete, and/or in every other area of responsibility that you have?
  • As your level of responsibility increases, how does that impact the decisions you make?

Prayer: “Lord, help me to remember that you have given me the abilities that I have. Help me to be disciplined in every area of my life. And help me to use the platform you have given me to be a witness for you every day of my life.”

_______________________________________

Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 9, “No Pain, No Gain,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Going The Distance

Olympic Marathon Runner Ryan Hall grew up in Christian home, but even though his parents did their best to instill godly values into his life, Ryan admits that he was heading the wrong way spiritually. As a teenager while pursuing sports such as baseball, basketball and football, he was involved in a lifestyle that found him in the middle of the cool crowd and an increasingly active party scene.

He says, “We were young, so we weren’t into drinking and drugs, but it was heading that direction. But when I started [long distance] running, my lifestyle changed a lot. I lost a lot of those friends. So I was around a whole different group of people. That put me out of the cool group. I remember just feeling a void at that point and a little bit lonely. Socially I wasn’t fitting in anymore. I was kind of struggling with that. Jesus really became my best friend at that point. When I was feeling that void, I would go to Him for that relationship that I was looking for and that was the real beginning of my walk with Christ – and it’s been growing ever since.”

Hall excelled through the years in long-distance running. He won championships at the high school and college levels. He made the Olympic Team and finished in tenth place in the marathon at the Beijing Olympics, a remarkable accomplishment.

Throughout his career, Hall has found inspiration in a friendship with legendary runner Jim Ryun and his family. He is also a big fan of Scottish Olympian Eric Liddell, whose story was told in the film Chariots of Fire. Some of Hall’s favorite verses are listed below.

Read 2 Chronicles 16:9 (HCSB)
9 For the eyes of Yahweh roam throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His. You have been foolish in this matter. Therefore, you will have wars from now on.”

  • When God’s eyes fall on you, what do you think He sees in your heart?
  • How would finding your identity in Christ change your motives for excellence?

Read Philippians 4:12-13 (HCSB)
12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret ⌊of being content⌋—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

  • How does an attitude of contentment give strength to those striving for excellence?
  • How do you think verse 12 relates to the inspirational truth found in verse 13?

Read Leviticus 25:2-4 (HCSB)
2 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am giving you, the land will observe a Sabbath to the Lord. 3 You may sow your field for six years, and you may prune your vineyard and gather its produce for six years. 4 But there will be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land in the seventh year, a Sabbath to the Lord: you are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard.

  • How can this passage in Leviticus apply to both our physical and spiritual training?
  • When did a time of rest allow you to push forward and be successful in competition?

Read Proverbs 24:16 (HCSB)
16 Though a righteous man falls seven times, he will get up, but the wicked will stumble into ruin.

  • Hall believes that the key to endurance is not getting emotionally down after making a mistake. How does this passage in Proverbs inspire you to never give up?
  • Describe a time when you stumbled or failed but chose to continue. Where did you find the courage to do so?

Hall says, “Before all of my big races, I like to watch the movie The Passion of the Christ, because that’s the amazing picture of how Christ endured so much for us. I think about His motivation and what it must have been like for Him to endure the type of pain for that long of a time. It makes me feel that what I do isn’t that big of a deal in comparison. I think about His motivation and how He was thinking about other people. Sometimes I can be a very selfish runner, so I try to think about others more when I’m running. That helps me to endure more than I could endure if I was just doing it for myself. So obviously I think about the Lord when I’m out there running. I think about Him taking that cross up to Calvary. I think about other people who I love. I think about my wife when I’m out there running. I think about the kids in Africa who we’re helping through World Vision. Thinking about doing things for others rather than making a selfish endeavor really brings so much more meaning to my running and helps me to endure through those tough times. The Bible says that Christ endured the cross for the joy set before Him. There’s a prize waiting for us at the end that we can fix our eyes on. It will allow us to endure things that we never thought we could possibly go through.”

  • Take a few moments to think about Hall’s words.
  • What do you think about what he says?

Prayer: “Lord, help me to endure. Help me to remember that you are always watching over me. Help me to stay focused on your path for my life, and even when I fall, help me to get back up and continue to walk – even run – with you!”

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Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 8, “Going the Distance,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes