Progress: Built on belief

Imagine being a first-year track coach at your school. You’re working with your sprinters and you direct them to do a new drill that is a little unorthodox. You share from your own experience that if your sprinters work hard at this drill, they will significantly improve. However, because it’s unorthodox and they’re unsure about you as a coach, their participation in the drill is only half-hearted. So the next day you bring your friend Usain Bolt with you to practice. Usain tells your sprinters to do the very same drill, explaining that he used this drill in his own training. How would your sprinters respond? They’d give 100% effort in doing the drill from that point forward! And now they’d be able to make the progress you desire for them.

Why would your sprinters be more willing to do what Usain Bolt says even though he’s giving the identical instructions you gave? It comes down to belief – the willingness to believe the words of an all-time-great sprinter vs. the reticence to believe what a new coach says. As a coach, you know how important it is that your athletes believe. To have the best chance to maximize their potential individually and as a team, they have to trust you as you direct them. Progress is built on belief.

At the risk of stating the obvious, belief is also essential for spiritual progress. In this series of devotions from 1 Peter 1, we’re looking at several elements that enable growth in relating to and living for Christ. We’ve already seen that progress is fueled by hope (1 Pet. 1:3) and strengthened by trials (1 Pet. 1:6-7). Here’s a third element: progress is built on belief.

1 Peter 1:8-9 – “Though you have not seen [Jesus], you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” As one of Jesus’ original twelve disciples, Peter had the advantage of seeing and knowing Christ directly. He commends his readers, including us, who follow Jesus even though we haven’t physically seen him. Our ability to experience a close relationship with Jesus comes from a willingness to believe – to trust that what the Bible reveals about Jesus is true, so much so that it’s worth surrendering our life to him.

Just like you as a coach ask your athletes to believe in you so they can make progress, Jesus asks us to believe in him so that we can grow and move forward. This means fully believing what Jesus and the Bible says about who he is: he is Savior and Lord, and he’s come to reign as King. It means fully believing what Jesus and the Bible says about the right response to Jesus: turn away from our sin and surrender in faith to him, loving and following him as our Leader and King. And it means fully believing what Jesus and the Bible says about what is true when we respond to Jesus with faith: he forgives our sin, reconciles us to the holy God of the universe who loves us, gives us new and eternal life, and fills our life with meaning and purpose.

Like the sprinters in our opening scenario, we can choose a reticent, half-hearted belief. Lots of things in this world, including in the setting of sports, conspire to undermine faith in Christ. To hold back on trusting Jesus, however, hinders growth in all that he desires to do in and through us. When we instead are willing to give ourselves fully to loving and following Christ, we move toward the “inexpressible and glorious joy” he offers. Spiritual progress is built on belief.

Coach, when belief in Jesus is the foundation of your life, you’ll grow in seeing your athletes and fellow coaches as he sees them, improve in coaching in truly transformational ways, and move forward in living out your God-given purpose with great joy. You will make progress in coaching and living in ways that honor Christ and make an eternal difference. Choose to trust Jesus. Progress is built on belief.

For reflection: Take a few minutes to consider what it looks like to build your life on belief in Jesus. Confess any areas where you’ve been holding back on choosing full trust in Christ. Ask him to grow you in knowing and loving him this day and this week.