I’m a big fan of two things: sports and Christianity.
I love it when those two things dovetail. I respect a Tim Tebow who stands strong for his faith, though that whole thing did get a little out of hand. Linsanity was a phenomenon, but it seems that Jeremy Lin has a fairly consistent Christian testimony. Of course, there are messy moments – some men play for the Red Sox or the Patriots and STILL try to give a Christian testimony. Light has no fellowship with darkness, folks. That’s in the Bible.
But frankly, many of the “testimonies” I hear from athletes are a little embarrassing.
- They tend to be a little self-serving and vainglorious. “God is on our side” is a great thought when we stand against the forces of darkness but it probably doesn’t come into play when the Cubs play the Cardinals.
- They tend to do contextual violence to scripture. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” is not a motivational verse about hitting home runs and breaking records on the track or in the pool.
- They tend to relegate God to the servant role. “God helped me achieve my goals and dreams.” But the God of the Bible calls us to die to self and live to Christ. He does not serve our ambitions, but we lay down our bodies as living sacrifices to serve his purposes.
- The testimonies are all too often not accompanied by lives that support the words. One Super Bowl hero vocally proclaimed Christ while his marital and moral relationships were anything but obedient to Christ.
I could go on – athlete testimonies are a cornucopia of weak doctrine and embarrassing practices. That makes them a lot like Baptist preachers and bloggers, I guess. But when I hear a wonderful testimony, I am blessed by it.
I remember when Tim Tebow was having his famous run with the Broncos and was about to go on the field to attempt to lead his team on another game-winning drive. He bowed his head in prayer and someone stuck a microphone near him. IN addition to singing some praise song VERY badly, he prayed out loud. I expected him to pray that God would help him to lead the team to victory. Nope. He asked God to help him to give honor and glory to Christ no matter what happened.
That’s an appropriate prayer.
Yesterday, an American duo won silver in synchronized diving – a true Olympic sport if ever there was one, right? It’s men in speedos diving off 3-meter platforms together. Actually, David Worley and I are considering giving this a try in 2020. But these two Americans, David Boudia and Steele Johnson, stood in front of the NBC microphone after their silver-medal winning performance and gave Christian testimonies.
And they were some of the best I’ve seen.
Both of these men spoke of the fact that their “identity is rooted in Christ” and not how they did in the event. It wasn’t a “God helped me win” testimony but a “God is my life” testimony.
I don’t know much about synchronized diving and I don’t care a lick about it. But I’m thrilled to call these two men my brothers in Christ and I am thankful for the testimony that they gave at this Olympics.
And, wow – Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, and Simone Biles! That’s some athletes there.
Here’s a transcript of the interview – my computer has been acting a little evil and if the video freaks a little, you can just read it here:
NBC Reporter Kelli Stavast: “What does it mean to come out and medal here in the synchro event?”
David Boudia: “Yeah, I just think the past week, there’s just been an enormous amount of pressure, and I’ve felt it. You know, it’s just an identity crisis. When my mind is on this, thinking I’m defined by this, then my mind goes crazy, but we both know our identity is in Christ.
“And we’re just, we’re thankful for this opportunity to be able to dive in front of Brazil, in front of the United States, and it’s been an absolutely thrilling moment for us.”
NBC Reporter Kelli Stavast: “You now have gold, silver and bronze Olympic medals. How much does this free you up for the individual event?”
David Boudia: “It does. It takes a lot of pressure off of me, but this never could have happened without Steele, without him pushing me, without him loving me well, encouraging me. And my wife has just been a solid rock, and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
NBC Reporter Kelli Stavast: “Well, and Steele, for you, your first ever Olympic event, how were you able to maintain your composure so well?”
Steele Johnson: “I think the way David just described it was flawless. The fact that I was going into this event knowing that my identity is rooted in Christ and not what the result of this competition is just gave me peace. It gave me ease, and it let me enjoy the contest. If something went great, I was happy. If something didn’t go great, I could still find joy because I’m at the Olympics competing with the best person, the best mentor, just one of the best people to be around.
“So, God’s given us a cool opportunity, and I’m glad I could’ve come away with an Olympic silver medal in my first ever event.”
NBC Reporter Kelli Stavast: “Alright, congratulations.”