by Shannon Caughey
Sports mirror life in many ways. Here’s one: the highs-and-lows, roller-coaster-type experience that often characterizes what happens in sports. There are thrilling moments in which you experience the success you’ve been dreaming about and striving for. There are also moments and even seasons in sports that are deeply challenging and disappointing. The same is true in life more broadly. How do you coach your athletes effectively not only when they’re experiencing the highs of sports and life, but especially when you and your athletes are experiencing difficult times?
As we begin the new year, we’re returning to the basics: qualities that are essential to living for Christ in every area, including coaching. The Apostle Paul articulates these foundational 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.” Previously we looked at how essential faith and love are to your work as a coach. The third quality Paul highlights is this: “your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
In Romans 5:3-5, we get additional insight into this quality of hope: “3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”
What Paul says likely surprises us: we can rejoice in the midst of problems and trials. Why? Because God uses our difficult circumstances to grow our endurance, our character, and “our confident hope of salvation” (v. 4). Paul then adds: “And this hope will not lead to disappointment” (v. 5).
“Hope” in the Bible is the confident expectation that God will do what he has promised to do even though we don’t yet see it—or don’t yet see it in full. Think about this in the context of sports. How do you coach your athletes to keep enduring and pressing forward in the midst of a difficult practice or a disappointing stretch in the season? You point to the hope of a better future: if they keep working hard, they will eventually see the results; if they persevere in competing the right way, the day will come when they’ll experience success. Instilling hope is an essential element of coaching.
Likewise, hope is essential to all of life. Difficulties and disappointment need not derail us. Compared with the promises we have in Christ about his eternal purposes, problems and trials are temporary. Our hope in Christ enables us to endure the challenges of the present. And this hope inspires perseverance because we know Jesus’ purposes—not difficult times—will ultimately prevail.
Consider just a few of God’s promises to all who put their trust in Christ: we are completely secure in Christ’s love and salvation; he is always with us through his Spirit within us; he gives us true and eternal life; we know he will use everything that happens in our lives, even painful things, for his good purposes; we will one day experience in full his ultimate victory over sin, death, and the enemy of our souls. These promises and so many more fuel hope!
Coach, when you live with this confident expectation of what God will do because your trust is in Christ, you will not be sidetracked no matter how difficult present circumstances might be. Your experience of hope enables you to instill hope in others. When you help your athletes be full of hope, they endure in doing the right things that lead to improved performance. More importantly, they see modeled in you the hope every person needs to grow into who God created them to be—and they have a chance to embrace this hope in Christ themselves.
As you begin this new year, Coach, resolve to be inspired by your hope in Christ in all you do—no matter what you’re currently encountering in the roller-coaster-type experience of sports and life.
For reflection: Think through the promises God gives you when you trust and follow Christ. Ask God to deepen your confidence in him so that your hope in his promises is even stronger. Thank the Lord for the true and lasting hope you have in Christ, even when problems and trials come.