Saturday, February 20, 2010


At North Park I have a new job in which I oversee the athletic chaplaincy program for University Ministries. Our goal is to support coaches and athletes by providing a chaplain for every sports team. In an effort to provide spiritual support to this important group of people I am writing frequent e-mails to encourage and challenge our athletes and coaches. Here is the first installment.

My family and I have been swept up in the Olympic Spirit this past week. There have been some great stories. Lindsey Vonn won gold in the downhill despite battling a serious injury to her shin. Chicago native, Shani Davis, became the first man to ever win back-to-back gold medals in the 1000-meter speed skating race, and another Chicagoan, Evan Lysacek, upset the favored Russian figure skater, Plushenko, to claim Gold for the USA.

What has been really interesting to me has been the post-event interviews of the athletes. A tearful Lindsey Vonn stated, “I’ve worked so hard for this. It means everything to me that’s why I work hard, that’s why I’m in the gym.” When Shani Davis was asked what the win meant he said, “Shows that hard work pays off.” Now, I do not doubt that these athletes worked hard. I am not arguing that their gold medals show hard work paying off. I believe they are right. Paul says in Galatians 6 that a man “reaps what he sows.” I grew up in Nebraska and Iowa so I know without a doubt that if in the spring you plant one seed of corn then in the fall you will not harvest wheat, or soy beams, but in fact you will harvest corn. That is simply just how God has set up the world because God has set the world up to run by set principles. For example, if you jump out the window, you will fall. If you stick your hand on a hot stove, your body will immediately let you know that that was not a good idea. If you are the hardest working athlete in the world or on your team, you will experience success. You reap what you sow. In fact the principle of reaping and sowing tells us that in this world we reap what we sow, we reap later than we sow, and we reap much more than we originally sow. I’ve been involved in athletics my whole life and experienced a lot of good things because I sowed such things into my career as hard work and maximum effort. This is what Lindsey Vonn and Shani Davis experienced and referenced in their interview, and it is what many of you have experienced in one way or another in your life.

What struck me though as I watched the interviews was this thought, “What would have the losers said if they had pulled out a win?” There was a gal from Sweden who was one jump away from a coveted silver medal in the down-hill; however, she experienced a crazy wipe-out going over 60 miles per hour. Instead of a gold medal, she received a knee brace. In the same race another gal from France tore a ligament in her knee no more than 10 feet into the race of her life. A Japanese figure skater broke a shoelace in the middle of his Olympic routine. Are you kidding me, a shoelace ruins a life long dream? Did these athletes lose because they spent one less day in the gym than the winners? I don’t think so. I think that if things had worked out differently, these athletes who lost would have rightly cited their hard work and maximum effort as the reason they won a medal. I think everyone in athletics knows stories of a freak injury, a bad call by an official, an unlucky bounce, or frayed shoelace that derailed dreams. Unfortunately, this is all true in life as well because athletics mirrors life. Sometimes the righteous suffers, and it doesn’t make sense to us because that is not the way the world is supposed to work. In those instances we reap what we have not sown, and it is confusing and disheartening. I believe that this happens because this world is a broken place. There is sin in our world and things do not always happen as they should. Now I don’t want to be a complete “Debbie Downer”. There is good news. The good news is that the principle of reaping and sowing holds true. We do in fact reap what we sow even in this sinful world. We know that there is so much joy and reward in working and sacrificing for a goal that in the end we achieve. The other good news is that God is the one thing in the world that we can completely trust and count on. Jesus has defeated sin (John 16:33). God has assured us that he will never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5) and that nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:31-39). God has promised us that one day sin will finally be done away with forever and we will live with Him in a new heaven and new earth (Rev 21).

The question that we all must face is one of trust. Since I have already fessed up to my farming heritage, I’ll make reference to one more saying that is heard on the farm. The saying is “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Of course this isn’t a good idea because if you slip on something the cow left behind and drop the basket, all of your profits and breakfast is gone. I am thankful that in this world where “not putting all your eggs in one basket” is good advice, we have a God who can be completely trusted with everything we have. The question is what or who are you trusting for your joy, your purpose, your self-esteem, and your salvation?

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