Five Traits of a Spiritual Champion

Last night several friends and I joined 117 million other people and watched The New York Giants defeat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.  The food was good.  The companionship very enjoyable.  And the game was exciting.   As I watched I thought about how the qualities that make for success on the athletic field are similar to those we need to acquire in our Christian lives.  In fact, the apostle Paul wrote it about using the imagery of the sports world.

 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Cor 9:24-27)

Think about these five qualities that are necessary if you desire to be a champion.

#1 A Champion Possesses Passion.  Last night we saw two teams play with genuine passion.  With a burning desire. With a will to win. With a heart to be the best.  The Giants came from behind to win, but the Patriots kept us in suspense until the final play. That’s what champions do. The man after whom the championship trophy is named, Vince Lombardi declared in a speech what it takes to be number 1.  “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing.  You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them all the time.

The apostle Paul was a spiritual champion.  He said, “I run to win….I do not fight like a man beating the air!”  In other words, Paul was passionate.  He was purpose driven.  His focus was on the Lord.  He wrote in Phil. 1:23, “ I have a desire to be with Christ.”  Vernon J. McGee said, “that the highest desire than can possess any heart is the longing to see God.”  Spiritual champions possess that burning desire.

#2 A Champion Exercises Discipline.  Former Dallas Cowboys coach, Tom Landry once said, The job of any football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do, in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.”  It’s easy to look at someone like Eli Manning who excels on the football field and forget the discipline, training and conditioning that takes place behind the scenes to become a champion.

For the Christian who desires to excel, discipline is absolutely necessary..  Without it, you cannot grow. You will not develop.  And you will never mature.  Paul said that a competitor goes into strict training. He beats his body.  He strained. Stretched.  And press on.  Such discipline is not an accident.  Paul exhorted, “Train yourself to be godly” (1 Tim. 4:7) “Learn to endure hardship (Heb. 12:7).  Discipline puts feet to Christian passion to be a champion.

#3 A Champion Embodies Commitment and Focus.  The Super Bowl competitors were focused for the entire 60 minutes.  Lombardi was right when he said, “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.

Commitment and focus will determine whether or not you view Christianity as a spectator sport or a serious competition.  In Philippians 3:13 Paul said, “I press.”  He didn’t look back.  He reached forward.  He was committed to Christianity.  To preaching the gospel.  To living the Christian life.  If we are going to be successful in the Christian race we must be 100% committed.  And completely focused on Jesus.

#4 A Champion practices Self-Sacrifice.  There is a price to be paid to be a winner in any sport. There are things you must give up. Everything about Paul’s analogy speaks to sacrifice.  The Hebrew writer also used the analogy of sports by saying that you must throw off everything that hinders you.  And run with endurance.  What do you need to give up in order to be a spiritual champion?  A bad attitude?  A destructive habit?  A pleasurable activity? An improper relationship? A nagging doubt?  A misplaced priority?  A personal right?

#5 A Champion Develops Character.  Athletic teams develop a character within the context of their value system and structure.  When the first four qualities are practiced, character is acquired.

Character for the Christian is simply defined as Christ likeness.  Paul affirmed that his goal and desire was to be more like Christ (Phil 3:10).  He is our leader.  Our example.  Our “spiritual coach” if you please.  And he calls on us to follow Him.

The Giants have bragging rights as Super Bowl winners.  They earned it. They performed like champions.  However, in 100 years it really won’t make much difference.  But it will make a difference whether or not you and I developed the traits of a spiritual champion, so that we can one day cross the goal line of glory.

 –Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Discipleship, Success

2 responses to “Five Traits of a Spiritual Champion

  1. Randy Baughn

    Ken, This post reminds me a lot of your “Turning Trials Into Triumphs” post a few days ago. With all the glitz and glamor that surrounds the Super Bowl, we do forget the thousands of hours of sacrifice and intense training that go into the making of a professional athlete. They make it look so easy. The commentators talked about the dozens of decisions the QB has to make in just a couple of seconds when he drops back. Who’s open? Who’s covered? Who’s going to get open? Who’s on my blind side? These aren’t choices he even consciously makes, he just reacts. This comes after years of discipline and practice. Thousands of hours of trials, sweat, pain and practice can culminate in one awesome play and make him a champion! Christianity is no different. We all need to go through trials, practice and discipline so when the time comes and the devil confronts us, we just react. We don’t have to think about it, we just instinctively do the right thing. Nothing is free, so the next time we see a Christian that Satan just seems to “bounce” off of… that didn’t happen by accident!

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