6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. (1 Timothy 6: 6-7)
I read a blog written by a young lady, Josie Kuhlman, who competed in NCAA Division 1 tennis. She described lying sleepless in her bed hours after her tennis team became National NCAA D1 champions. It wasn’t excitement keeping her awake, rather she was upset at herself for losing her individual match and feeling like she hadn’t contributed to the team’s win. Josie describes herself as a “fierce competitor” and she describes this as one example in her life where the inner competitor hurt her. Josie describes The Space Between Striving and Contentment.
“As athletes, we are constantly taught to never be satisfied, but to keep reaching and striving for our dreams. When we get there, we need to set new goals. And that’s healthy. That’s how we improve and get better. But we can’t let our results define us as a person or we will feel like we are only worth the merits of our performance. I think all the athletes, overachievers, and people who are hard on themselves should remember this simple message: No matter what we do, we will never be enough for the world. But we are enough for Jesus, right now as we are.” Josie Kuhlman, former D1 Tennis Player
I think Josie does a great job of addressing the challenge of athletes; achieving the tenuous balance of striving for excellence, yet through the process being content with who you are. As a Christian athlete that means being content in who you are in Christ. Your performance does not change who you are in the eyes of your Lord. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. 17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139: 16-17)
The Apostle Paul provides the following advice to his student Timothy regarding contentment.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6: 6-12)
Where are you at in terms of the balance between striving for athletic excellence and contentment? If you are very honest with yourself are you striving for excellence to glorify God or are you striving for yourself? (Colossians 3:23-24). Are you eyeing the fame and/or fortune that can come from success in sports? Take heed of Paul’s advice because the human heart has not changed in the past 2000 years. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (vs. 10) Note, there is no evil in making money, nor in achieving fame, for God can use all of that for his purposes. It all comes down to motives. We should be eager to serve Jesus and to use the talents he has given us to accomplish his plans for our lives. You serve a God of excellence and need to do all you do with excellence, but then live a life of contentment knowing that you “brought nothing into the world, and [you] can take nothing out of it” (vs. 7)