Athlete, Be All In
Mark 12:30,31 (ESV)
"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." The second is this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these.
As athletes, I’m sure you’ve heard this term used by one or more of your coaches through the years. They might have defined it as “giving 100 percent effort all the time,” or maybe as “a total commitment to your sport, your teammates, and your coach.”
Both of these definitions are good, but they are general and vague, and they don’t really capture the bigger power behind this little phrase, ALL IN.
When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul with all your mind and with all your strength.” Then He said, “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Mark 12:30,31.
I believe this is the best definition of what it means to be ALL IN.
Of course, Jesus is giving a spiritual lesson about being ALL IN for the love of God; but His inspired answer can also be a model for us to follow in sports where total commitment is key.
To begin unpacking this commandment, let’s define what is meant by heart.
Scripture says our hearts can be: deceived, examined, wise, encouraged, upright, known by God, meditative, wicked, hardened, joyful, keepers of the law, trusting and set with eternity. And with the heart we believe, love and follow after God.
So the heart is our emotional center, the place where our passions and desires are fostered, signifying our personhood, our humanity and our creation as children of God.
Athlete, the condition of your heart is crucial to everything that you do. Therefore, Scripture warns, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” Proverbs 4:23 (NASB).
We are called by Jesus to love with a whole heart – completely, fully, with every part, in an unbroken and undamaged state, holding nothing back. What would it look like if we loved God in this way, and what would it look like if we carried this wholeheartedness over to the field of play too?
Reflect: Are you “ALL IN” with your heart, or do you struggle to fully trust God with your dreams, your hopes and your desires? Do you have any misplaced affections, idolizing something above Him? Do you compete half-heartedly, in a lukewarm, uncommitted, going-through-the-motions way?
Directing our human hearts can be frustrating. In fact, it is impossible in our own efforts. And our divided hearts hold us back from being ALL IN in both loving God and also in being fully committed in other areas of our lives too.
What is the remedy for our faint hearts? We must experience a supernatural work of God in our lives. And we must learn to live out of that reality.
Ezekiel 36:26 in the New Living Translation says it this way, “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”
Christian, you have been given a transplanted heart with the ability to love Him fully.
A prayer to consider: Lord, teach me and enable me to go ALL IN!