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The Conqueror’s Crown of Glory

As a former coach for nearly two decades, there are numerous ways to motivate athletes. Some respond to food, others want to get their names in the newspaper, and a few do whatever it takes to win. Each of my three children possessed a little bit of these desires. My oldest son James wanted to know what place he needed to get to earn a medal. My middle child Daniel was the best all-around athlete in the family who is most passionate about winning. Meanwhile, my daughter Lydia is easily motivated by deals that I make with her based upon performances. Whatever it takes, set a goal and reward this once achieved.

And [then] when the Chief Shepherd is revealed, you will win the [a]conqueror’s crown of glory, 1 Peter 5:4.

As a former runner, Chariots of Fire was one of my favorite movies in high school. The inspiration behind this title comes from the William Blake poem adapted into the British hymn “Jerusalem.” Chariots of Fire follow two athletes who win gold medals for Great Britain at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. While Harold Abrahams is the more gifted runner, Eric Liddell runs to glorify God through his faith. However, when his best chance to win gold is moved to Sunday, Liddell is able to convince his coach to switch races so that he doesn’t break his vow to keep God’s Sabbath holy, Exodus 20:8.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours. 25 Now every athlete who goes into training conducts himself temperately and restricts himself in all things. They do it to win a wreath that will soon wither, but we [do it to receive a crown of eternal blessedness] that cannot wither, 1 Corinthians 9:24-25.

In the passage above, the apostle Paul is referring to the Isthmian Games that were hosted by the city of Corinth. This ancient Track and Field Event took place in non-Olympic years. After archeologists uncovered remains of Corinthian pubs, it’s likely that many who attended the Isthmian Games would stop by, have a drink, and talk about this sporting event. Appealing to Corinth’s rich sports history, Paul wants to remind his readers of the Conqueror’s Crown of Glory. Since only three contestant’s win a medal, live your life in such a manner that you will receive an eternal crown that will last. This should be your ultimate goal in life, Romans 10:9-11.

by Jay Mankus

The Path to Excellence

As I examine successful athletes, authors and entrepreneurs, I find a common characteristic which exists.  Beyond a drive, focus and passion, those who rise above their competitors seize the moment daily.  Vision serves as a blue print to carry out and fulfill goals set by each individual.  Although delays and timing may be off, staying the course results in a path toward excellence.

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, 1 Corinthians 9:24.

When my two boys were much younger, each qualified for the Yes Athletics National Cross Country Championships for 3 consecutive years.  As an 8 year old, Daniel was the East Regional Champion.  However, when you compete against the best in the country, breaking the top 100 is an accomplishment.  After talking to other coaches, parents and runners, I realized my kids hadn’t put in the miles or training to have a chance to contend.

No, I strike a blow to 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 Corinthians 9:27.

If you want to be considered elite, dedication, sacrifice and an unswerving concentration is a must.  Despite whatever talent you possess, the hungrier will creep up on anyone who isn’t willing to put in the time to improve.  Everyone will reach their limit at some point, but God will honor those who grind it out daily no matter how they are feeling.  I’m not sure what the future holds for my own aspirations, but I must fight with everything I have to keep my dreams alive by walking on the path to excellence.

by Jay Mankus

 

Pressing On When Your Body Says No

When you are young, recovery happens over night.  As Father Time catches up,  just the slightest exertion of energy can result in lingering aches and pain.  While mind over matter may work for a couple of days, how can you press on when your body says no?

As for me, an employee of Amazon or anyone in retail sales, Christmas is a hectic season.  Sales are like a drug for bargain shoppers, influencing business owners to remain open 7 days a week.  Married to your job, family, friends and hobbies take a backseat.  This strain has deflated my soul with several weeks still to go, hanging on by a thread.

In this state of exhaustion, I am reminded of the apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.  When your body says no, athletes push their bodies to the extreme.  Blocking out any pain, runners often enter a trace, focused on maintaining a steady pace.  Though cars, dogs or traffic may break people out of this state, this mentality helps these individuals reach a place most never find.

From a spiritual perspective, words from the Bible are building blocks.for faith.  When placed into an impossible situation, God’s Word provide a source of strength.  As you learn to trust in Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30, a fresh wind arrives via the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, the next time your body says no, find rest, hope and renewal in prayer to keep on keeping on.

by Jay Mankus

Pin the Detail or Be the Donkey

As a coach whose youth baseball team has lost 13 in a row without a win this season, I’ve run out of words to say.  Pregame, in game and post game speeches have been ineffective as the losses continue to mount.  Unless I point each player toward the details they are failing to address, I’ll be the donkey in pain.

Whether its running through first base, charging soft hit balls or following through on every throw, children will never develop the instincts to be a great ball player until they practice like they want to play.  Athletic talent only takes individuals so far.  Once you reach a certain age, repetition is necessary or hungrier teammates will surpass your God given ability.  Catching, hitting and throwing involves reps, technique and situational drills to prepare players for the heat of the moment during a game.  If you pin the details into the minds of youth, the less likely brain cramps will occur in the form of mental mistakes.

In the game of life, there are plenty of life skills absent from youth, adolescents and adults.  If knowledge isn’t applied, information will be lost and maturity will be stunted.  James 1:2-4 highlights the drive required to become a complete and all-around citizen.  Tests occur on the field of life to teach souls to persevere and not to give up despite how many times you lose.  These experiences produces life lessons that lead to maturity.  If you follow the words of Galatians 6:9-10, a harvest of success is waiting for you down the road.  Focus on the details or in the end you will be the donkey!

by Jay Mankus

 

What You’ve Got Left

Aspiring athletes and students are always looking for an edge, seeking to attain new heights.  Meanwhile, coaches and teachers use motivational speeches to get the most out of their pupils, trying to maximize their God given talents.  However, sometimes you need to remember the words of Job, “the Lord gives and takes away.”  Thus, whether you’re enduring a trial in life, struggling your way through a test or trying to stop a losing streak, God only has one question for you: what do you have left?

The apostle Paul shares this sentiment, reflecting upon a physical ailment he was forced to accept, 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.  Paul’s health concerns led him to embrace this situation, leaning on the Lord to help him cope with daily pain.  Humbled and helpless, Paul found inner strength when he placed his trust in God with what he had left.  Once he reached this point in his life, Paul uncovered the power of Christ in human weakness.

As for me, I find myself doing just the opposite, relying on my own strengths and talents to get by.  The end result has been predictable, lacking joy, peace and unfulfilled in my current state of life.  Despite my failures, I serve a God of second chances, able to rescue me from myself, Psalm 91:14-15.  Therefore, if you find yourself in a similar predicament, swallow your pride by giving God what you’ve got left.

When has Christ shined through your weaknesses?

by Jay Mankus

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