by Shannon Caughey
Coaches love to post inspirational quotes on the locker room or weight room walls, print them on team t-shirts, and include them in their speeches. “Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.” Or “If you want to win, do the ordinary things better than anyone else does them day in and day out.” Maybe you’ve utilized this one: “Be stronger than your excuses.”
Here’s another quote that gets to a foundational issue you address with your athletes: “Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.” As a coach, you know the importance of training your athletes mentally as well as physically. Because of the presence of so many negative influences, you work to reprogram how your athletes think in ways that positively impact their performance.
As we’ve been considering in this series of devotions, training our mind is just as crucial for living and coaching effectively for Christ. In the previous devotions we’ve seen the need to renew our mind and to redirect our focus. Here’s a third component of how the Bible directs us to train our mind: reprogram our thinking.
Similar to athletes in the competitive sphere, we constantly encounter influences that can negatively impact our mindset and perspective. In Philippians 4:8, the Apostle Paul gives us instructions to combat this: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Our world is filled with messages seeking to persuade us to be self-focused, self-exalting, and sin-indulging. And it goes beyond the world “out there.” Our own sinful hearts push the same way of thinking. However, when we recognize our sin and turn in faith to our Savior Jesus Christ, he launches his transformational work within us. Christ’s gracious agenda includes renewing our minds. What’s our role in this? We respond to Jesus’ grace and cooperate with what he is doing. With regard to his work to renew our minds, we “fix our thoughts on” what Jesus desires for us.
This means we intentionally fill our minds with the person, qualities, and values of Christ and his kingdom. We want this to be what shapes our thinking. All the characteristics Paul lists in Phil. 4:8 – what is true, honorable, right, etc. – lead to this: these thoughts inspire us to love and worship God, and to love and serve other people. The more we reprogram our thinking away from sin and self, fixing our thoughts instead on the things of Christ and his kingdom, the greater our consistency in living and coaching with excellence for Christ. We will then bring praise to him as we love God with all that we are and love our neighbors as ourselves.
How do we reprogram our thinking? Like any form of training, it requires discipline. It takes the discipline of filling our minds with the truth of God’s Word through daily study and reflection. It takes the discipline of regularly meeting with other Christ-followers to worship the Lord and to learn from each other how to live more fully for him. And it takes the moment-by-moment discipline of refusing to dwell on sinful, self-focused thoughts that arise – choosing instead to turn our minds to Jesus.
Consider what this might look like as a coach. When you wake up and you’re tempted to brood over what happened in the game the night before, choose instead to open your Bible and focus on what God says. When you are tempted to keep replaying in your mind that critical comment made about you, turn your thoughts instead to what Jesus says is true of your identity because you are united to him by faith. When you are tempted to worry about coaching matters or other things, remind yourself instead that the Lord is in control and he is loving and good.
“Make sure your worst enemy doesn’t live between your own two ears.” Instead, by Christ’s gracious enabling, reprogram your thinking. “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Train your mind so that you will coach and live effectively for Jesus.
For reflection: What is one “next step” the Lord is leading you to take so that you can more consistently fix your thought on him and his kingdom? It may be developing the habit of daily time in God’s Word or being more consistent in meeting with other believers – or something else. Commit this to the Lord.