Should an Athlete be Content?

Psalm 16:6The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I’ve led various departments and organizations and during that time I have hired many employees.  I have often shared with other people that 90% of the best employees I have ever hired, and the best co-workers and bosses I have ever had, have been former or current athletes.  Many athletes spent years getting out of bed early to push their bodies to their limits, so making it to work on time every day tends not to be very difficult.  Athletes all face significant adversity so when facing it at work, they’re better equipped to handle these challenges.  They tend to be more productive, able to work in a team – they are more successful.  In light of that, I was intrigued to read a blog recently: Why Is It So Hard for Athletes to Feel Successful?  Clearly there must be a disconnect between being successful and feeling successful.

The blog writer asserts that: “As athletes, we are trained to constantly try to get better.  We watch film and nit-pick every mistake, looking for areas to constantly improve.  If we enjoy our success or take our feet off the pedal, that’s when we would lose as an athlete.  I value most of the traits athletics has taught me, but this trait of “good is never enough” needs to be checked and controlled.  This part of our athlete DNA will lead to a tremendous amount of pointless anxiety, worry and stress.”

The desire for continual improvement is necessary if you want to excel at your chosen sport; in fact, “continual improvement” is also a common maxim within businesses who want to stand out in their industry.  How do you balance this with contentment?  As Christians, God wants us to be content with what we have.  In today’s scripture, David said: Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. (Psalm 16:5-6). David knew what it meant to live in luxury as a king (1 Chronicles 29:1-5), but also what it meant to live in poverty and fear as King Saul pursued him and tried to kill him (1 Samuel 19-24).  Whether in plenty or poverty, David knew where true contentment came from; his faith and hope were in his God (Psalm 3:2-6).

Likewise, the Apostle Paul understood contentment.  11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Philippians 4:11-12). 

How about you?  Do you feel content today?  I don’t mean complacent (i.e. showing smug or uncritical satisfaction with your achievements), because there is no room for complacency as an athlete, a worker or a Christian.  Contentment is very different; it is how you feel about the things that are often outside of your control (e.g. the way God made you, what’s happening around you, what he’s given you etc.).  Contentment is always tightly connected to appreciation.  When we wake up in the morning and we think of, and thank God for, our lives and all he has given us, then it is much easier to be content with our lives.  Can you honestly say that the “boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places”?  Take some time today to consider all that God has done for you, and provided for you, and earnestly thank him.  Continue to strive for excellence in all you do, but do it with God’s help and choose to live a life of contentment.


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