When the light comes on

by Shannon Caughey

One of the most satisfying coaching moments is when “the light comes on” for one of your athletes. In that moment, they finally understand and implement what you’ve been coaching them to do. When this happens, it makes a huge difference in their performance. Your athlete thrives in a way not previously experienced, and you think, “This is why I love coaching!”

Your greater coaching goal is to have a transformational role in the lives of your athletes. You want to help them develop as complete persons. When “the light comes on” for athletes concerning far more significant issues like character, purpose, and what true success involves, it makes a huge difference in their life. They can thrive in ways God intends for them, and you think, “This is why I really love coaching!”

This is the high calling you have from the Lord to be a truly transformational coach. You fulfill this calling as you look first not to yourself but to Jesus. When we respond in faith to Christ, he promises his presence with us as the one who is the same “I Am” that Moses encounters in Exodus 3:14. So who is this Jesus who is actively present with us, enabling us to be and do who he wants us to be and do? Through seven intentional “I Am” statements Jesus makes in the book of John, we discover more about who Jesus is and what this means for us – including as we coach.

In the last devotion, we looked at Jesus’ first “I am” statement in John: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35). In John 8:12, we find his second “I am” statement: “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.’” In the Bible, “darkness” refers symbolically to a lack of knowledge, a lack of belief, and the sinful rebellion and evil that come with rejecting God. In contrast, “light” refers to the true understanding of God and his ways that comes through God’s revelation of himself and his salvation. 

Here’s what Jesus’ “I am the light of the world” declaration means for us and our coaching:

1. As we trust and follow Jesus, we will know and experience the life God desires for us.

We don’t want to underperform in life, just like we don’t want our athletes to underperform in competition. But for “the light to come on” for us regarding how to live in the way God intends, we need “the Light to come in” to our life: we must surrender in faith to Jesus, the Light. He rescues us from darkness. Through his presence with us, Jesus gives us “the light that leads to life” – enabling us to be who God created us to be and to do what God created us to do.

To be a transformational coach, you must experience transformation yourself: the transformation from living in darkness to living with Jesus Christ, the light of the world, at the center of who you are. Jesus says this happens “if you follow me.” Trust and follow Jesus in every dimension of how you coach and how you live.

2. As we trust and follow Jesus, we will be channels of his light to others.

While making it clear that he is the light of the world, Jesus also says this to his followers in Matthew 5:14 – “You are the light of the world – like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden.” We see the darkness of the world around us, and this darkness impacts the athletes we coach. Those we have the opportunity to influence need the One who is the light. Jesus alone can rescue them from darkness and fill them with the light of his presence – the light that leads to true and eternal life. Jesus desires to make himself known in this dark world through us.

While recognizing that different coaching settings allow for differing levels of openness in communicating about Christ, you can fulfill this calling by Jesus to be “the light of the world” no matter where you coach. Through your words, actions, and interactions, show those in your program who Christ is – even if you’re unable to overtly name Jesus. Show those you coach what life with Jesus at the center is like through your character and your priorities. As Jesus says a couple verses later, “Let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matt. 5:16). Don’t underestimate how Christ can make himself known through you as you trust him and pursue being a channel of his light.

Coach, fulfill the high calling you have to be a truly transformational coach through trusting and following Jesus, the light of the world. May Christ and his life shine brightly in you and through you!

For reflection: Take a moment to praise Jesus for being the light of the world who gives us the light that leads to life. Express your desire that his light would shine through you and your coaching, impacting those around you.

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