Where to begin: Love the Lord

by Shannon Caughey

As a coach, how do you begin each season? At your initial meeting with your players, you focus on what’s most important. While you may go over details of schedules or rules, you emphasize the values you believe are foundational for a successful season. From the beginning, you want your players to know what’s most important and to pursue what’s most important.

This is also a helpful practice as we start a new year. What’s foundational for success – not only in coaching but in all of life? We want to make the most of the coming year. To do so, it’s good to focus from the beginning on what’s most important: knowing what’s most important and pursuing what’s most important.

In Mark 12:28, Jesus is asked this question: “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus’ answer points us to what’s foundational for true success in coaching and life. It provides the focus we need at the beginning of a new year. We’ll consider the first part of Jesus’ response in this devotion and then look at the second part in the next devotion.

Mark 12:29-30 – 29 Jesus replied, ‘The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lordour God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’” According to Jesus, what’s most important is to focus on the Lord by loving the Lord.

In his reply to the question about the preeminent command, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4-5. These verses were often referred to as the “Shema,” which is the Hebrew word for “listen.” Faithful Jews recited the Shema every morning and evening. It was a means of staying focused on the Lord, the one true God, every day of life and in every area of life.

This command is not merely to acknowledge the Lord but to “love the Lord your God.” In the Bible, to love goes far beyond the expression of an emotion. To love God is to seek him, to be devoted to him, and to delight in him. Jesus is emphasizing that what’s most important is to keep the Lord as our focus through pursuing an undivided devotion to him.

What does this mean for your life, including your coaching? As a coach, you know how crucial it is for your team to be consistent in order to be successful. The more your players consistently compete well, the better the results will be over time. In Mark 12:30, “all” is repeatedly emphasized: we’re to love the Lord with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength. Jesus desires for our love for God to be consistent across all dimensions of who we are.

When love for God is not consistent across every dimension of who you are, it undermines who God created you to be and the impact he wants to have through you. For example, it’s difficult to consistently engage in actions that show love to a player or fellow coach if your mind is filled with unloving, critical thoughts toward them. But when your devotion to the Lord saturates how you view and respond to your players and fellow coaches, you can treat them in ways that honor God and are for their ultimate good.

As you begin a new year, Coach, start with what’s foundational for true success: focus on the Lord by loving the Lord. Remember, you are loved unfailing and sacrificially by God as ultimately demonstrated in what Jesus has done. Respond by being devoted to him above all else. This is what’s most important: consistently loving the Lord your God as you coach and in all areas of your life.

For reflection: Take a few minutes to consider how your coaching and your life show evidence of what Jesus says is most important – loving God with all that you are. Ask the Lord to show you the next steps he wants you to take so that you will love him more consistently.

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