Have you ever met an athlete who walks boldly in their faith? They share their beliefs unapologetically, and exude the light of Christ. It’s like when you meet them you get Steph Curry and Tim Tebow vibes.
Yeah, that was definitely not me growing up as an athlete. I understand what it’s like to try to hide your beliefs behind your athlete title.
Walking out your faith as an athlete can be a little intimidating.
You may not want to upset people. It’s easier to blend in with the crowd.
Standing out sometimes feels like you're trapped near the sideline with two defenders on you.
A lot of times we want to live a quiet and comfortable walk with God, but that’s not good enough. I remember the moments when I realized I was wasting oil.
Here I was a talented athlete who had overcome several obstacles, yet I still didn’t want to acknowledge the One who helped me get there. Not cool.
Honestly, I’m still learning what it means to be a light as an athlete, but I’ve picked up some practical tips that can help you today.
1. Realize Who You Are. If you don’t remember anything else I tell you, remember this: You are a child of God. Your identity rests in Christ, not in your sport. This is hard to grasp for us athletes because most of us have been playing our sport since we were young. Our sport is how we’ve made friends, and it’s how other people recognize us. Most of us have never even gotten any support or praise outside of our sport, so it’s natural to want to claim that as your identity.
Identity drives everything a person does. Yes, it’s that powerful. When you get a full understanding of what it means to be a child of God, your whole life will change, because the way you see yourself will change. I dive deeper into identity in my book, Winners Win. It’s something I’ve struggled with my whole life as an athlete. But trust me, once you get it, there’s no turning back.
2. Be An Example. It doesn’t matter if you’re the team’s superstar or benchwarmer, if you’re an athlete, all eyes are on you. People pay attention to you more than you realize. That’s why it is so important to be a good example on and off the court/field. As believers, we are called to let our light shine so God can get the glory in our lives.
Does God get the glory in your life? Or do you just follow the crowd? I used to want to blend in, but then I flipped the switch (I turned my light on, get it?). All jokes aside, your teammates and coaches may never admit it, but they will admire your willingness to stand out. You will be looked to as a leader because of how you treat people and do the right thing.
You don’t have to walk around quoting scriptures to be a light for Christ. You’ll inspire people to turn on their lights just by doing little things like walking away from gossip, speaking up for other people, and always speaking life.
3. See Your Sport As A Vehicle. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that basketball is not the end all be all in my life. It’s just a vehicle. Vehicles are used to get things from one place to another. God gave me basketball to get what He’s placed inside of me into the world. It took me about 20 years to realize that.
Like many athletes, my sport was my idol. It was everything I cared about.
There’s a fine line between being passionate about something, and making it your idol. I was on the wrong side of that line.
If you want to really walk out your faith as an athlete, you must understand there is a purpose attached to your title. It doesn’t matter if you play on the high school, college, or pro level, you have a platform to create an impact in someone else’s life.
4. Get Some Iron. The Bible has a lot to say about our choice of friends. Proverbs 27:17 says “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Walking out your faith isn’t the easiest thing to do, but getting some iron in your circle will make it a bit easier. It’s so important to surround yourself with people who can help you in your faith walk.
I didn’t do this until I started playing on the professional level, because I didn’t see the value in having other believers around me. Looking back over these last few years, it is really one of the best things I’ve done. You need people who can speak life to you and hold you accountable. I think it’s okay to have friends who don’t know God, but you need someone in your life who can help build you up in your faith.
5. Be Unashamed. It took me a long time to get to the point where I wasn’t hiding my faith. I grew up in the church as a pastor’s kid, and I was embarrassed about that. Then I realized that I had to let that go because God wasn’t too embarrassed to change my life around. I didn’t want people to know I was a Christian because I didn’t know what people were going to say about me. Let me tell you this: one of the most dangerous questions you can ask yourself is, “What will people think of me?” You’d be surprised by how many athletes want to live out their faith, but don’t because they’re too ashamed.
The truth is that living your faith out loud as an athlete isn’t an easy task. I also understand that some of this advice is going to take some time to sink in. It took me a couple of years to actually get it together, and I’m not perfect by any means. God gave you the gift and opportunity to play your sport. Sometimes we can forget that. It’s only right that we use our sport to glorify Him and be a light in this dim world.