In a recent “Sports Spectrum” podcast, Jason Romano interviewed Tom Allen, head football coach at Indiana University. Last fall IU had its best football season in over 25 years. A vibrant follower of Christ, Coach Allen talked about how he builds team culture using biblical principles. This year one of the values he’s emphasizing with his team is being relentless.
Coach, perhaps you’ve also encouraged your team to be characterized by this value. While “relentless” carries negative connotations in some contexts, the positive dimension of this term is about having a consistent determination to pursue a goal no matter what the obstacles. To be relentless is to never give up.
In the face of the ongoing challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, Coach Allen’s focus for his team is a timely emphasis for all of us. But it goes beyond our current situation. If we want to live for Jesus Christ at all times and in settings that often discourage and even oppose this, it will require a relentless commitment to the Lord.
The Apostle Paul points the way in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 – “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
The “treasure” Paul speaks of is the personal and relational knowledge of Christ that comes when we surrender ourselves to him in faith, receiving his forgiveness for our sins and the gift of new, eternal life in him. This is a treasure to be shared with others as Jesus gives us the mission of pointing people to him, including in how we approach coaching. But there will be obstacles to living for Christ and pointing others to him. During some seasons of life the challenges and hardships will be especially intense. So we must be relentless in pursuing this goal. How can we live out this relentless commitment to Christ?
- Trust God’s power in our weaknesses. To be relentless is not pretending to always be strong. It’s a determined dependence upon the power of God in the midst of our very real limitations. In Paul’s day, a jar of clay was a well-known metaphor for human weakness. Rather than acting like we can figure it out on our own, we look to God in our weakness and need, trusting that he will supply us with his power in every situation. We never give up no matter what we’re facing because our confidence is in God and his all-surpassing power.
- See God’s opportunities in our obstacles. None of us are tempted to give up when things are going well. But what happens when, like Paul, we’re hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, or struck down? To live out our commitment to Jesus means there will be times when we experience hardship, suffering, and opposition – which is what Paul refers to in saying “we always carry around in our body the death of Jesus.” Yet it’s in these very things that God gives us unique opportunities to not only experience the life of Jesus ourselves but to point others to the salvation and life in Jesus they need. So we’re determined to look for what God is doing in the midst of obstacles we face.
A few verses later in 2 Cor. 4, Paul urges us forward with these words: “Therefore we do not lose heart” (v. 16). Coach, never give up in your commitment to Christ. No matter how hard the current season is or any future season might be, lead the way in being relentless in living for Christ and pointing other to Christ. Here’s why: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor. 4:17)
For reflection: In what ways are you struggling to be relentless for Christ? Ask God to help you trust his power in your weaknesses. Also, ask him to enable you to see the opportunities he’s bringing in the obstacles you’re facing. Thank God for his relentless love and grace.