37-39 “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”’ Now this He said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
John 7:37-39 (ESV)
It’s an old story. The athlete who does anything to be the best, the coach who uses any and everything he can to afford his team a winning edge. “Win at all costs” is the motto.
Nowhere was this attitude illustrated better than in the 1984 film “The Karate Kid.” In the movie, young Danny LaRusso and his single mother move cross country from New Jersey to California in hopes of finding a better life.
Unfortunately, life seems to get worse when Danny has a run-in with a gang of bullies at his new school. It turns out that these boys are karate students at a local dojo and are unfairly using their skills to best young LaRusso.
On one occasion, when the bullies have him cornered, Danny is saved by the mysterious maintenance man, Mr. Miyagi, who works for Danny’s new apartment complex. It turns out that he is quite skilled in karate himself. While seeking to advocate for peace with bullies’ sensei, Mr. Miyagi and Danny find themselves accepting a challenge to duel in an upcoming karate tournament instead.
Mr. Miyagi trains young “Daniel-son,” as he lovingly calls him, in preparation for the tournament, and Danny becomes pretty good. Danny makes short work of most of his opponents at the tournament and meets his bullies in the championship rounds.
Seeing that Danny is besting his champion, the sensei of the bullies’ dojo commands his champion to break Danny’s leg in order to take him out of the competition, thereby securing another win for his team.
Though the bully succeeds in breaking LaRusso’s leg, Danny manages to fight around his injury and defeat his opponents in great style.
In the Bible passage quoted above, Jesus tells those who are gathered in the Jewish capitol, Jerusalem, that for those who believe in Him, “rivers of living water” will flow from within them. The writer, John, clarifies that Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit whom all believers will receive once Jesus dies and is resurrected from the dead.
To have rivers of living water flowing in us means we have the Holy Spirit flowing unhindered in our lives. But what does this mean?
Well, we learn in the fifth chapter of the Book of Galatians that someone who has the Spirit flowing has some pretty clear signs that this is happening. His or her life is marked by “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” These apply to all that the believer does, including the athlete’s competition.
Sometimes, as Christian athletes, we can become so blinded by the desire to win that we adopt the “win at all costs” mentality and look a lot like the bullies mentioned above.
Instead of the clear, cool water of the Spirit flowing from within us, we have something more like the dark sewage of the gutter flowing from us. We compete with selfish ambitions, seeking only to validate ourselves and get ahead in any way we can.
However, the believer is called to do all that he does to the glory of God and this by seeking to exemplify character that is emblematic of God the Holy Spirit flowing through our lives.
May our motivation in competing flow from that river of living water inside of us.