“Don’t ever let the light on you become brighter than the light in you.” This is the advice Coach Dabo Swinney gives to those around the Clemson football program. It reflects the difference between living outside in – allowing external factors to determine our perspectives, choices, and actions – and living inside out. To live inside out is to have the internal transforming work of Jesus Christ, the light of the world (John 8:12), shape how we think, speak, and live. How do we make sure the light of Jesus’ work within us shines brightest – especially in the midst of the often-public arena of coaching with all its pressures?
Here’s what we’ve seen so far in this series of devotions. First, living inside out requires staying vitally connected to Jesus Christ through a growing relationship with him. Second, it involves having a set of unshakeable convictions defined by the Bible that guide how we live and coach. We now come to a third factor crucial to living inside out: develop Christlike character that controls how we act in every situation.
In 1 Timothy 4:8, Paul uses an athletic comparison to point to the importance of developing character: “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” In his book The Practice of Godliness, Jerry Bridges defines godliness as “Christian character that springs from devotion to God…which results in a life that is pleasing to him.” Paul says we experience great benefits now and in the future when we’re marked by this type of character.
How do train for godliness so we can develop the Christlike character so crucial for living inside out? The same basic elements needed for effective physical training apply: plan, practice, and persevere.
1. Plan: Just as effective physical training involves following a plan rather than taking a haphazard approach, have an intentional plan for how you’ll grow in the character qualities that spring from devotion to God. Christlike character comes from knowing Christ and his character more deeply – the connection component of living inside out. Create and follow a plan for spending time with Jesus (when, where, what you’ll study from the Bible, etc.) so that he can develop his character in you.
2. Practice: Physical training only produces results with consistent practice. Likewise, training for godliness takes consistent practice. With the Spirit’s empowering, you develop Christlike character qualities such as integrity when day by day you practice integrity in coaching situations or other situations – even when it might feel advantageous to compromise your integrity. Adopting a “no days off” attitude toward practicing Christlike character is essential.
3. Persevere: To reach the full potential benefit of physical training, you have to persevere through fatigue, obstacles, and setbacks. This is no less true when training for godliness. Because much of the coaching and broader culture around us is not committed to character that reflects devotion to Christ, it can feel tiring to “swim against the current” and be unwavering in living out Christlike character. Every one of us has setbacks at times. Yet when we persevere in pursuing character that honors the Lord, he promises that the benefits are well worth it.
Coach, when your faith is in Jesus, you can be confident he is working to transform you at the core of who you are. This includes enabling you to develop Christlike character. You join him in his work as you plan, practice, and persevere in training for godliness. This character that reflects Jesus will then increasingly control how you act in every situation. You will live inside out.
For reflection: Which component of training for godliness (plan, practice, persevere) feels like it’s most lacking for you at this point? Ask the Lord to empower you to take intentional steps to address this. Thank him for his gracious work to grow you in Christlike character.