November 24, 2017

Without Borders: Thankful Athlete

 By Chris Rich

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. ” -I Thessalonians 5:16-18

As an athlete we are thrown into the culture of sports at a young age. We begin to measure ourselves by wins, losses and performance.  This was never the intention of sports or for us as athletes and coaches.

“Give thanks in all circumstances”

A thankful athlete is an athlete with perspective. Perspective that no matter what our heart explodes with thanksgiving for the opportunity that we have to use the talents and abilities we were given.

Thankfulness is a perspective.

A perspective that you are blessed to be able to compete.  Blessed to have the talents and abilities you were created with. Blessed to be healthy.  But, perspective comes way before the final outcome.

This same perspective should also lead you to a mindset of humility. When you are thankful for the opportunity you have and the talents you have been given you can’t have an ounce of pride in you because you realize everything you have in front of you and within you is a gift.  A thankful athlete is a humble athlete.

On the flip side of the coin a thankful perspective leaves you hungry to be the best you can be. Hungry to compete because you know that each preseason training session, practice or game is an opportunity. An opportunity that only comes one time.

You can never get opportunities back.  A thankful competitor cherishes every moment and pushes themselves to be the best they can be. A thankful athlete realizes tomorrow isn’t promised and they take advantage of every moment! A thankful athlete is hungry!

As an 18-year old freshman at Grove City College I was in a quarterback battle with another freshman.  With about a week left in camp I stepped to throw and a defensive tackle slipped and fell through the line of scrimmage and head first into my left knee.

The battle was over and the guy who later became my best friend was named the starter and I was out with a fractured knee cap.

In a moment football was taken away from me.

I had never been injured before and forced to miss time.

When you face adversity there are a few ways you can respond. You can quit. Or you can rise.

For me, in that moment, rising meant taking a deep look inside myself.

My whole life I had taken sports for granted and lived in a world where I measured myself on wins, losses and performance.

In that moment when my goals were dashed I had to take a look inside. I had to reorient my perspective.

I had been looking through the fog of performance based happiness. I had lost track of how blessed I was to get a chance to play college football. To compete for a starting role as a freshman and to get to play sports at all.

In that time I made a decision to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Whether in victory or defeat I resolved to give thanks before I ever stepped foot on the field.

This is what God intended for sports. He intended that we would treat our talents and abilities as a blessing from Him.

That it would keep us humble knowing that they were a gift.

And it would make us hungry. Hungry to use them to His glory. Hungry to compete at the highest level as to use the gifts we were given!

Too often we think of thankfulness of soft. Thankfulness is the opposite of that. It’s the realization that everything we have is a gift!

A thankful athlete begins to see, in part, the will of God for them. They begin to see that sports is so much bigger than the scoreboard. They begin to see the opportunity to play and compete is a blessing. One to be thankful for.

Until we see sport this way we will never feel the will of God as we compete. This is how God intended it. That in all things we would have the perspective of Thanksgiving.

Would you resolve today that each and every time you step foot in the weight room, on the track, on the field or the court again you would thank God for the opportunity before you and the gifts and ability in you.  No matter the circumstance GIVE THANKS!

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