December 1 REWARD OF OBEDIENCE
Behold, for thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the Lord.
Athletes know that actions have consequences. Their efforts are judged, and they are either rewarded or punished by coaches, referees, other players, and even fans. They much prefer reward over punishment. There is no mystery to reward. Obedience brings reward, and disobedience brings discipline. The Christian life is an exact parallel. We all prefer reward over punishment. The result is linked to obedience. We all choose either reward or punishment when we choose either obedience or disobedience. Do you want to be rewarded for your obedience?
1 John 2:1-17
Out of the depths I have cried to You, O Lord.
Athletes are taught very early the importance of communication. If they are tired or hurting, they need to let the coach know. If the other team has an advantage, they are to let the other players know. This communication leads to the player getting the help he needs. Without communication, you are on your own. A Christian knows the benefits of sharing our needs and struggles with God. We also should share them with each other. God will provide all the help we need if we will just ask. Have you asked God for help lately?
1 John 2:18-3:6
December 3 RESTORATION
But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.
Athletes are not perfect. Try as they might, at some point, they will let their coach and teammates down. How the athlete handles his imperfections is the key to the results. If he fails to acknowledge his faults, it will lead to problems. Those who admit their wrongs are restored. This restoration is a perfect mirror of the Christian walk. All make mistakes. Those who admit their faults and ask for forgiveness are restored. All others stand on the wrong side of the law. Have you asked for forgiveness?
1 John 3:7-24
December 4 WAITING
I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.
An aspect of athletics that is often overlooked is waiting. Some plays only work if you wait until the right moment. Hurry them, and they fail. Knowing this and believing the play will work, athletes wait for the right moment. Then after waiting, they get the joy of seeing it work. For a Christian waiting is important as well. We must wait and trust that God will bring things to pass in His timing. Then when God brings them to pass, we get the joy of celebrating. What are you waiting for?
1 John 4:1-21
I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope.
No athlete can make every play, so there are times he must stand and wait and rely on someone else to make the play. This reliance and dependence on one another is the essence of teamwork. Without the ability to rely on each other, the team breaks down into individuals. As followers of Christ, we have to learn reliance as well. The great thing about this is that God is dependable. He always does what He promises. The challenge is to learn to rely on Him instead of on ourselves. Are you relying on God?
1 John 5:1-21
KEEP IT SIMPLE
O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters,
An athlete who tries to focus on all of the other players’ responsibilities can often be so focused on that. They fail to take care of their own responsibilities. Many times the philosophy is to keep things simple.
This ensures understanding and keeps people from overthinking. A Christian likewise must not try to concern himself with everyone else’s responsibilities. That is God’s job. He needs to focus on his own obedience. God has made it clear what He asks us to do. Are you focused on what God is saying to you?
2 John 1:1-13
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me.
As an athlete approaches a game, his emotions must be at peace. Excitement and anticipation are positive emotions and help to improve performance. Worry, fear and dread are negative emotions and usually lead to poor performance. This mirrors the Christian walk. When our lives are filled with worry, fear, and dread, we tend to make poor choices and withdraw from challenges. When we put our trust in the Lord and are walking at peace, our lives reflect His greatness. Are you living in peace?
3 John 1:1-14
How he swore to the Lord and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, 3 “Surely I will not enter my house, Nor lie on my bed;
Successful athletes live a life of dedication. They are no stranger to saying no to food and sleep, to say yes to working out and pushing their bodies to the limits. This dedication helps them to make the most of the talents and abilities they were blessed with at birth. A follower of Christ could learn much from their example. By saying no to things of the flesh and yes to things of the Spirit, we begin to develop the gifts and abilities the Lord blessed us with. Then we can become what He planned all along. Does your life reflect a dedication to God?
O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forever.
All teams tend to form distinct personalities, with the athletes filling different roles. One thing that makes the team strong is stability. Having a person that you can count on every time to go out and give their all make the team stronger. Without this, a team will struggle. As a follower of Christ, He is the one that we can count on every time He says He will do. He always keeps His Word. Knowing this, we take the courage to face life’s challenges without fear. Are you finding your stability in God?
December 10 FAVOR
For the sake of David Your servant, Do not turn away the face of Your anointed.
Athletes understand the importance of favor. Whether in favor of the coach, other players, or even the referees, it is essential to them. Favor allows them opportunities that they would never have enjoyed otherwise. They never want to lose the favor they have. As a Christian, we have favor with the God of the universe. Not that we command Him, but that we are given opportunities that we would never have had. Knowing His favor helps us to value keeping it. Are you living in God’s favor?
If your sons will keep My covenant and My testimony which I will teach them, their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever.
A wise athlete knows the benefits of keeping the team’s rules. The rewards of this are favor and usually increased playing time. By not following the team’s rules, you incur a different type of reward. Players that break rules can lose playing time or be kicked off of a team. There are rewards for being a follower of Christ. There are also consequences for not following Him even though we can’t get kicked off of His team. Is your life earning good rewards or bad rewards?
December 12 UNITY
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
A necessary ingredient of a successful team is unity. Unity does not mean that everyone looks alike or does the same thing. It means that they each are taking their unique abilities and talents and putting them together for a common vision and purpose. This ingredient is also important among Christians. God created us different with the wisdom of knowing that when we work together in unity, powerful things will happen. Unity happens when we all work together for His vision and purpose. Are you living a life of unity?
For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation.
An athlete knows the power of being chosen. More players want to be on the team than are allowed. It feels wonderful to be chosen for the team. To not be selected is a lonely feeling. The feelings of rejection are powerful and often difficult to overcome—the athlete longs for the moment when he is chosen. The Christian understands this moment as well. If you are a Christian, you have been chosen! You have been picked to be a part of the winning team for all eternity. How has knowing you are chosen changed your life.
THE EXTRA EFFORT
Behold, bless the Lord, all servants of the Lord, who serve by night in the house of the Lord!
For an athlete, it is normal to give extra effort. They know they can’t make themselves taller, smarter, or extraordinarily gifted. What they can do is work hard to get the most out of the talent they do have. By giving extra effort, they can sometimes outplay athletes who have more ability but don’t put out as much effort. A Christian should live the same way. We can’t do anything about the abilities we don’t have. We are responsible for using the gifts that we do have. By giving more effort, we please the one who gave us the gifts. Are you giving extra effort to following Christ?
Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; Sing praises to His name, for it is lovely.
A special moment during any game is marked by the fans standing up and cheering. These moments are usually the highlights of the game. The moments of cheering motivates athletes to give more and play harder. While God cannot give more than He already has or work any harder, He is blessed by our praises. He is always worthy of our standing and cheering. He has done so much for us. He deserves more applause than we can give in one lifetime. Are you giving God praise?
For the Lord will judge His people and will have compassion on His servants.
Athletes quickly learn that they are accountable to their coaches. At some point in a game, the coach yells at them for not doing something right. And even more severe is when you are called to his office to discuss something you have done. This is not usually a pleasant experience. Similarly, we are all accountable to God. He never yells at us, but we have often grieved His heart. We may not have to go to the office, but we will all stand before Him one day. How well this goes depends on what we do now. Are you living life to please Him?
For I know that the Lord is great and that our Lord is above all gods.
Athletes know but don’t often talk about that they all have different levels of skills and abilities. Some are just better at doing certain things. This level of ability also translates into those with more skill receiving more attention and praise than those with less. As Christians, we know that whatever abilities God has given us, and He deserves all credit for them. We can work hard, but we will never be equal to Him. We should gladly give Him the praise/credit because we would be in trouble without Him. Are you giving God all the credit?
They have mouths, but they do not speak; They have eyes, but they do not see;
Athletes are cautious by nature. They know if you put confidence in the wrong person, they will let you down when moments get tough. Many times trust is earned in practice. What they have learned in practice, they perform in the game. A Christian should likewise be careful about who they put their trust in. God is always trustworthy. The more we follow Him, the more reliable we should become. We don’t want to be the one to let others down. Are you becoming trustworthy like our Lord?
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December 19 RESPECT AND PRAISE
O house of Levi, bless the Lord; You who revere the Lord, bless the Lord.
In the athletic world, you praise those whom you respect. Respect and criticism do not belong together. It is easy to see respect when you hear how one athlete speaks of another. Our words reveal the attitudes of our hearts. In the Christian realm, one should expect to hear praise for the Lord. Many times there are those who lack respect for the Lord; therefore, they question HIm instead of praising Him. One thing is sure. If you respect the Lord, you will praise Him. Is your mouth full of praise for Him?
A GREAT GAME PLAN
To Him who spread out the earth above the waters, for His lovingkindness is everlasting;
An athlete enjoys nothing more than watching a great game plan unfold, and watching things come together. He admires the coach’s wisdom in putting it together but also knows that the players doing their part is important. As Christians, we know that God has a great plan and that it will lead to victory. What we don’t often stop and think about is that plan includes us completing our assigned tasks. We play a role in God fulfilling His plan, or we are in His way. Are you filling your role?
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
It just seems natural when we see certain athletes perform that we applaud and shout our appreciation for their efforts. It would be harder to sit still than it is to cheer them on. In our hearts and minds, they have earned this praise. Similarly, we should applaud and shout our appreciation for our God. He has done much for us and continues to overlook our failures and pours His goodness into our lives. It should be easier to praise Him than to sit still. Do you find yourself praising Him?
POWER OF BELIEF
Who remembered us in our low estate, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
Athletes don’t start out with a dazzling array of moves and sharp skills that amaze us. Sometime, somewhere, somebody took the time to teach and encourage them to develop the talent that maybe no one else had seen. What we admire is the finished product. Like that beginning athlete, God knew what He had put in us, and what we could become if we let Him teach us. God believes in what He can make of you if you let Him. He knows what you can become. Are you allowing God to make you into more than others believe you can be?
AGONY OF DEFEAT
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.
One thing every athlete experiences at some point is the agony of defeat. There may even be tears. Defeat can be crushing. Some people face failure and come away with the resolve to continue to fight for victory.
Often the most significant victories come after the most bitter defeats. Even as followers of Christ, we sometimes taste defeat. It can either make us bitter or better. We need to rise with a steely resolve to face the challenges ahead of us. One day we will taste the sweet taste of victory. What happens in your life when you face defeat?
December 24 A NEW DAY
May those who fear You turn to me, Even those who know Your testimonies.
Fans often long for a new day for their team. They have often heard promises of a new day. What they want to see is the reality of that day unfolds on the field before their eyes. They want to celebrate. There was a time in history when God’s people had heard of a new day when things would be different. They longed to see and celebrate that day. When it was time, God announced it to people. And they came and celebrated the birth of a King. Are you celebrating Jesus’ birth?
December 25 SAVIOR
For my eyes have seen Your salvation,
Sometimes athletes are called the Savior of a team. Many times this is before they have done anything. The expectation is that they will deliver the team from mediocrity and make them winners. It doesn’t always work out. But one time it did. He was called Savior before He did anything. He came to deliver us from our sins and set us free. It has worked out wonderfully for those who will accept Him. Is He your Savior?
December 26 WELL ROUNDED
And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
A good athlete works at more than just developing his physical skills. The ability to relate to others is key in playing team sports. Character is an important key to maintaining any success our physical abilities can give us. This is true for Christians as well. We need to develop more than just our spiritual gifts. We need to develop our walk with God, our faith, our giving, as well as our character. We should be maintaining our physical bodies as well. Are you working on your character as well as your gifts?
O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to You!
A good athlete knows the importance of listening. In meetings, the coach only says something once and expects you to do that in a game situation. One key to listening is knowing that it is a one time opportunity and focusing on the speaker. The same is true in our walk with God. When He speaks, we should be listening. Then we should do what He asks us to. He sets the example in that He listens to us when we pray. We should focus on Him knowing that this is a one time opportunity. Are you listening when God speaks to you?
December 28 DISCIPLINE
Let the righteous smite me in kindness and reprove me; it is oil upon the head;
All athletes, at some point, face discipline from their coach. Whether it was for not working hard in practice or breaking a rule, discipline is sure to come. How they respond to it makes all the difference. Knowing the coach wants them to be their best, they should accept it as a gift from a friend. Christians struggle with the same issues. God’s discipline is always for our benefit. When God disciplines you, do you accept it as a gift for your long term benefit, or do you resent the pain it brings?
Do not incline my heart to any evil thing to practice deeds of wickedness, With men who do iniquity; and do not let me eat of their delicacies.
Athletes know that there are things that they shouldn’t do. They do things that will impact their lives and play negatively. But they still have to choose not to do what they shouldn’t do. Many athletes have destroyed their lives and careers by doing things they knew not to do. For the Christian, the situation is the same. We need to put boundaries around our lives and stay away from the things we know not to do. The choice is up to us. Are you choosing to stay away from things that will destroy your life?
O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me! Give ear to my voice when I call to You!
The job of a coach is to help the player be all he can, which will help his team win. To do this, he pushes, prods sometimes yells, and demands more than the player often thinks he has. All this to benefit the player. A wise player responds with gratefulness to this difficult training. God is even more committed to helping us be all that He created us to be. He will ask and teach a person to do more than he thinks he can do. He does all of this so that we won’t look back on our lives with regret. Are you responding to his training with gratefulness?
December 31 A NEW THING
Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.
Athletes know that with a new season, some things will be different. They have to learn to adapt to new things because old things are no longer being used. Anticipating and even looking forward to these new things help the athlete to learn quickly and perform better. For the Christian, a new year is a time to prepare themselves with anticipation for the changes that are sure to come. Resisting the changes will only keep us stuck in the past doing what hasn’t worked. Are you asking God about the changes for this new year so that you can change with Him?