by Shannon Caughey
Coaches know the difference between a team that plays to win vs. a team that plays not to lose. A team playing not to lose tends to be tentative. They’re held back by the insecurity of fearing failure. Teams that play to win tend to thrive. They play with a freedom that comes from being secure in their ability and preparation, believing they can overcome mistakes that inevitably happen. They’re energized by believing they have an abundant supply of what’s needed to succeed.
You want to coach your team to play to win so they can thrive in athletic competition. More significantly, your coaching goal is to have a transformational role in the lives of your athletes. You want them to know how to play to win in life. You desire to help them thrive as complete persons. How does this happen? With his third “I am” statement in the book of John, Jesus tells us.
As we’ve already seen in this series of devotions, these “I am” statements are intentional parallels to God’s “I Am” declaration to Moses (Exodus 3:14). Jesus is claiming to be God in the flesh. He wants us to have greater clarity about his identity and what this means for us – because Jesus promises his presence with us in the fullness of who he is as God.
Here is what Jesus says in John 10:7-10, his third “I am” statement: “7 I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. 9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”
In saying “I am the gate,” Jesus proclaims that he is the source of what’s needed to thrive in life:
1. True security – In Jesus’ time, pens for sheep were constructed out of rock walls, often with branches of sharp thorns laid across the top of these walls. The rock wall enclosure had only one entrance. After bringing the sheep into the pen, the shepherd positioned himself across the entrance. He was literally the gate, keeping thieves and predators out so that his sheep would be secure.
When we come to Jesus in faith, he brings us into his “sheepfold” and provides us true security. Trusting and following Christ rather than living and coaching according to the ways of the world will mean we’ll encounter threats. But our identity in Christ as a dearly loved children of God is secure, despite the accusations of the enemy of our souls. We’re secure in the salvation Jesus gives us (v. 9): his forgiveness for our sins and his gift to us of eternal life. No circumstance can undermine this. As Jesus says later in John 10, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me” (vv. 27-28). Jesus provides the true security we need to thrive in life because he is our gate of protection.
2. True abundance – Shepherds would travel hundreds of miles each year with their flocks, constantly searching for good pasture. Jesus says that when we trust him, he is the gate through which we “will find good pasture” (v. 9). When we follow him as he leads us, he fulfills his purpose of giving us “a rich and satisfying life” (v. 10). We no longer have to search for “good pasture” according to the world’s definition, which not only fails to deliver but ends up being spiritually destructive. Jesus is the gate to true abundance: a life saturated by his love, grace, and power. We thrive in being who God created us to be and living how God created us to live as we trust and follow Christ.
Coach, as you’re thriving in Jesus, you’re able to help others toward thriving as well. You’ll coach out of the true security and abundance that Jesus provides – and this enables you to fulfill the calling the Lord has given you to have a transformational impact on your athletes. You can point them to the source of the security and abundance every person longs for. Because of Christ’s work in and through you, you can coach your athletes toward playing to win in life.
For reflection: Take a moment to thank Jesus for being the gate through which we experience true security and abundance. Pray for those in your sphere of influence: that they would come to Jesus and find salvation and life in him.