by Shannon Caughey
We’re beginning the new year by returning to the basics: qualities that are essential to living for Christ in every area, including coaching. Just as certain skills are foundational for competitive success in your sport, the Bible points to certain qualities that are needed for thriving as followers of Jesus. The Apostle Paul highlights these qualities in 1 Thessalonians 1:3—“We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In the last devotion, we looked at how essential faith is to your work as a coach: putting your confidence in Jesus Christ and what he’s able to do. Now let’s consider the second essential quality Paul lists: “your labor prompted by love.”
Jesus taught that the greatest commandments are to love God with all that we are and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). But Jesus didn’t just talk about love. He lived it out. At the final meal Jesus has with his disciples before facing cruel suffering and then being executed on a cross, Jesus knows exactly what awaits him. So where is his focus? “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love” (John 13:1).
One definition of love is “taking sacrificial action for the benefit of others.” Jesus takes sacrificial action, first by washing his disciples’ feet (John 13:5). This was a caring act that brought refreshment to the recipients after a day of traversing dusty and grimy streets. It was also an unpopular task normally reserved for the lowest of servants. Jesus engages in a labor of sacrificial love for his disciples, and he directs them to love others sacrificially as well: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (Jn. 13:15).
What does it mean to follow Jesus’ example and to make your coaching a labor of love?
1. Show and tell. A little later in John 13, Jesus verbalizes his love to his disciples (v. 34). It’s really important to communicate love to your team. Especially in this time when many of your players are coming from difficult backgrounds, they need to hear that you care about them. And they need to hear it again and again. Then back up your words with what you do. Show love by taking sacrificial action for your players’ benefit. This leads to the second aspect:
2. Go beyond the expected. Just before Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, John 13:3 says, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” Jesus is obviously the only one in the room with this type of authority and power – because only Jesus is the Son of God. Yet he chooses to serve sacrificially. He loves through taking action that no one expected. Coach, love your players by following Jesus’ lead. Take sacrificial action that they wouldn’t expect from someone in your position—action for their good, action that addresses their needs even though it doesn’t fit neatly into what’s convenient or comfortable for you, action that communicates genuine care for them.
Jesus ultimately shows the full extent of his love for us through giving his life on the cross. He sacrifices himself so that we can be rescued from our sinful rebellion and reconciled to God. Since we are loved so deeply by the Lord, we now love others with this same love.
As you begin this new year, Coach, resolve to approach all that you do as a labor of love. Love your players well: with your words, with your actions, and with doing the unexpected for their benefit. As you do so, you will be a channel through which your players experience the matchless love of Christ.
For reflection: Read through John 13:1-17 a couple of times, reflecting on what Jesus does and what Jesus is directing us as his followers to do. Think about Jesus’ incredible love for you. Ask him to enable you in the coming year to make everything you do a labor of love.