3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:3 (NIV)
Imagine you are on your sport's biggest stage. It’s the World Cup, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, your conference championship. It’s a crucial moment. All eyes are on you. It’s your penalty kick. You are at the starting line.
You could be a hero or a goat. Colombian soccer player Andrés Escobar was murdered for inadvertently deflecting the ball into his own net. But Usain Bolt has been immortalized for his Olympic feats.
Welcome to sport culture where people curse your name or build a statue of you depending on how well you perform.
A few years ago I bought my Dad an autographed picture of Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner and Mets baserunner Mookie Wilson. In the picture, the ball is going between Buckner’s legs. In Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Buckner committed one of the most famous errors in baseball history.
Imagine if you made a mistake on your sport's biggest stage.
Buckner woke up one morning and brushed his teeth with no idea he would become one of the most infamous athletes of the 20th century that day.
How sweet Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount would have been to him that night.
Pastor and author Timothy Keller wrote, “What’s at the top of the list of the kingdom of this world? Power and money (‘you who are rich’); success and recognition (‘when all men speak well of you’). But what’s at the top of God’s list? Weakness and poverty (‘you who are poor’); suffering and rejection (‘when men hate you’). The list is inverted in the kingdom of God.”
Be honest, if given the choice, you would be Bolt, not Buckner. Right? That’s because you have the priorities of the kingdom of the world. Me too.
I do not want to feel inadequate, disgraced, ashamed and overburdened.
But, often the things we want to avoid (rejection, failure) are open doors to God’s kingdom. Likewise, the things we often want most (money, power) can impede us.
Athlete, do not count your athletic and moral failures as curses like the kingdom of the world does. Instead, embrace your physical, intellectual and spiritual poverty.
Remember, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
Matthew 5:3 means the kingdom belongs to the needy, humble and impoverished beggars, not the proud and morally confident. Therefore, boast in your weaknesses, so Christ’s power can rest on you (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Athlete, take a couple minutes and apply Jesus’ inverted priorities to your situation and those around you. Do things look different?