The Bible offers many parallels between life as a Christian and life in sports. In this post I want to explore the spiritual and athletic component of humility.
C.S. Lewis said:
If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed. We can live a life of humility when we recognize that in our natural state, we live a life of pride as we seek to fulfill our own needs and desires. – Mere Christianity
To recognize that we are proud and selfish by nature, we can begin to understand our need for a renewed mind and renewed heart.
When we humbly submit our wills and desires to that of God’s will, we will live in denial of ourselves, finding complete fulfillment in Christ. In response, our lives will be marked not only by humility in our minds but in our actions towards our neighbor.
It is our root of pride that we believe will bear fruit outside of submitting to the will of God. When our pride is not submitted to Christ and His finished work on the cross, it turns our attention to ourselves as we endlessly seek satisfaction apart from Him who provides the very satisfaction our souls long to know.
The Humble Christian
AW Tozer spoke of the dangers of exalting or degrading oneself:
The victorious Christian neither exalts nor downgrades himself. His interests have shifted from self to Christ. – AW Tozer
Exalting ourselves or downgrading ourselves are both displays of pride. In both instances, we are the focus of our lives. We are designed to turn our focus to Christ and honor Him in all we do.
A genuinely humble Christian relies daily on the grace of God. It takes humility to admit that we need Christ because our pride has no desire to admit dependency. And when we come to the end of ourselves and concede that we are unable to save ourselves, Jesus awaits, ready to give grace to the humble.
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” – James 4:6
Playing with Grace
If we are in relationship with Christ, when we compete or watch others play sports, we are free to display the glory of God.
God is pleased with us and extends His grace to us. We are free to compete knowing whether we win or lose, our joy is rooted in the unchanging beauty of Christ.
Whether we win, lose or tie, let’s compete for His glory.
The danger of playing to earn the favor of God is that we are unable to earn anything from God. We will strive to reach a pinnacle that we have fabricated in our minds. He is not pleased with us by the result of the scoreboard at the end of the game. When we come to know His love, Christ alone defines our joy.
The humility of the Christian athlete will be evident in how they compete, the love they share with their neighbor and a secured identity that is not dependent on the result of the game.
When our hope and identity is found in Jesus, we will live with a renewed mind and heart. And as we pick up our cross and crucify our pride, Christ empowers us to live a life of humility and honor to Him as we play, watch and coach sports.
The Christian Gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less. – Timothy Keller
How do we respond when we lose? How do we approach our teammates and opponents during a game of high intensity?
If we answer these questions in any way that does not reflect the humility of Christ, we need to evaluate our pride and die daily to ourselves.
In summary, we will never perfectly display the humility of Christ. We are not to live condemned by our pride and strive to modify behaviors to display humility. That will leave us in a state of trying to earn the grace of God. Rather, I ask those questions that we may first acknowledge our pride and submit it to God and he will provide the grace to glorify Him.