Wise Coaching: Coach with fear

by Shannon Caughey

Being skilled at living well in this world – that’s something we all desire. That’s also the picture we see in the Bible of what “wisdom” is. To be wise is about more than having knowledge. It’s understanding how to put that knowledge to practical use. And it involves not just any knowledge. It’s understanding what “living well” really is: God’s definition of “the good life.” Wisdom is about making decisions and taking actions that lead to truly living well in day by day, real-world situations.

How does this wisdom impact coaching? We might think of a wise coach as someone who possesses lots of knowledge and experience in their sport. In addition, these coaches are skilled in applying their knowledge and experience in ways that help their athletes excel in competition.

This is good, but wise coaching according to the Bible’s definition has an even more significant dimension. Wise coaches are skilled in speaking, acting, relating, and leading according to God’s good design in day-by-day coaching situations. Wise coaches prioritize helping their athletes grow in being skilled at living well in this world.

How can we acquire this wisdom? It starts here: live and coach with fear. That might sound counterintuitive so let’s clarify what this “fear” is. Proverbs 9:10 says, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.” This same theme is expressed many more times in Proverbs (e.g., 1:7, 3:7, 14:27, 15:33). According to Proverbs 19:23, “Fear of the Lord leads to life…” Skill in living and coach well – living and coaching according to God’s good design – begins with the fear of the Lord.

What does it mean to fear the Lord? It’s responding to him with deep awe and reverence. Eugene Peterson writes, “Will we let God be as he is, majestic and holy, vast and wondrous, or will we always try to whittle him down to the size of our small minds, insisting on confining him within the boundaries we are comfortable with, refuse to think of him other than in images that are convenient to our life-style? …To guard against such blasphemous chumminess with the Almighty, the Bible talks of the fear of the Lord – not to scare us but to bring us to awesome attention before the overwhelming grandeur of God.”

When we recognize how truly awesome God is, we’re amazed and humbled that he would draw near to us and make a way for us to personally relate to him through Christ. But this experience of his love and grace is not license to treat the Lord with a casual flippancy. Our closeness with him is saturated with reverence for him. We never lose sight of the fact that he is the all-powerful, all-knowing, Most High God who is worthy of our worship and undivided devotion.

As we cultivate this fear of the Lord in our minds and hearts, how does this result in living and coaching wisely? It leads us to be shaped by him in how we live and coach rather than being shaped by the influences of the world around us. Our awe of God compels us to want to share his heart, reflect his character, and pursue his purposes in how we live and coach. When we’re marked by deep reverence for the Lord, we’re motivated to live and compete for an audience of One: Jesus Christ. We genuinely desire his glory rather than our own glory.

Do you want to grow in being skilled at speaking, acting, relating, and leading according to God’s good design in everyday coaching situations? Do you want to help those you coach grow in being skilled at living well in this world? Then coach with fear: the fear of the Lord. Cultivate a deepening recognition of and response to the overwhelming grandeur of God. Let a genuine awe of the Lord be the foundation for how you live and coach.

For reflection: Take a few minutes to reflect on the greatness and glory of our God. Pray for a deepening awe and reverence in response to who he is.

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