Throughout my career as a student athlete I have struggled defining what it looks like to live out an authentic Christian walk amongst my peers. Christian athletes are in such rare air in regards to the consistent opportunities they have to present the gospel to teammates and faculty. I can speak from personal experience – I have found myself overthinking how to present the gospel. I know that with my peers and teammates, providing authenticity and realness to such an abstract topic like “Jesus coming down and dying for my sins” can be daunting. However, to combat that feeling, I have been challenged to first address my own walk with Christ.
As I have learned and grown in my faith, I have been able to articulate my faith in an extremely refreshing way. I have been able to tangibly and honestly pinpoint change and conviction the Lord has brought about in my life and in those around me. There is a realness that the Lord operates with that permeates and breaks down barriers that many feel are in the way, hindering their experience in Christ. This realness that the Lord operates so powerfully with led me to think about the ways in which my walk is lacking “realness.” Then I had to work on bridging the gap between the facade of a Christian walk that can be found in some Christian communities, and the real truth of the gospel that can be found working in the hearts and lives of gang bangers, prostitutes, drug dealers, addicts, etc.
I found myself coming to a crossroad, operating out of the ability to be in this world but not of this world, integrated into this society, but not identifying as part of this society. While it may seem like this life would be difficult, living out a Christian walk on the edge, this practice provides the absolute greatest opportunity to be authentic in one’s faith.
As believers, we are called to live with and serve the marginalized and those stuck in darkness. As believers, we are called to serve those in distress and pray for those who have not yet found the kingdom. I have begun to realize what that looks like in my life and how to extend God’s love to those battling through this monotonous life.
One example of this is in the party culture that is so prevalent on college campuses and familiar to collegiate athletes. Spreading truth and being authentic in one’s faith can come in the form of being present at a function and engaging in thought-provoking, genuine conversation which many may not be accustomed to in that setting. This also may look like simply offering rides home to those who may not have a ride. These acts, while they may seem basic and insignificant, simply provide greater opportunity to serve those who may be lost.
The authentic Christian serves as a cross bridge to unbelievers who are seeking truth. This bridge provides tangible, real opportunity to begin relationship and ministry with those who do not know the Savior. Most importantly it serves as a change agent to remove the stain Christians of past and present have left. Christianity has been plagued by a bubble-like faith that is present in certain settings and gives off an unrealistic expression of what this faith really and truly is.
Authenticity is a divine gift from the Creator. Something I have realized over time spent in thought and wonder is the process of expressing true authenticity. I have had to battle my inner struggles — whether they be pride, honesty, conviction or insecurity. That ongoing battle that we will never completely resolve while we reside on this earth enables us to lead more genuine lives, to be present in our specific communities, such as our teams, our family, our friends and those whom we are called to serve.
I have found a believer cannot in a true sense express the gospel, or the gospel that has worked within themselves in a true, authentic manner, unless they have taken on their own human battles first, identifying and defining who they are as sons and daughters of the Creator and meeting head-on the true broken nature all humans have been born into in this fallen world.
While there is no blueprint or step-by-step process laying out how to represent this faith in an authentic manner, we can only try to delve deeper into the truth that is the gospel and continue a relentless commitment to honest service to our Creator.
The task is before us as a community; the road has been set before us. It is long and daunting, but with it comes a joy, peace, and unity that transcends human understanding. I challenge you as my brothers and sisters in Christ to reflect on your Christian walk and evaluate whether you are representing a true authentic faith. Here’s what has helped me in my attempt to live an authentic Christian life.
Whether self-reflective or biblical conviction, this challenge has manifested itself in a variety of ways for me, one of which is my affinity for material things like shoes. I have found that in this challenge to represent an authentic, tangible and real faith, things as small as a love for shoes can hinder a true gospel from being shared.
While it is not a sin to enjoy shoes, I have to remember to consistently check myself and make sure the small details of my walk fall in line with the gospel I am seeking to share.
Consistent Heavenly-Based Mindset
Throughout a typical day from weights, class, meetings, practice, etc., I have found at times that my mind and focus move from one thing to another at a rapid pace. While my heart of hearts is seeking the kingdom, at times I have found difficulty keeping this desire at the forefront of my mind throughout the day. These past few months I have practiced refocusing my heart on the mission at hand, which ultimately is representing the gospel and being an emissary for the kingdom at all times.
This looks like taking a five-minute break from studying or before practice to sit in silence, praying or meditating on Scripture to remind myself of what I am here for.
It isn't to be an All-American.
It isn't to be a 4.0 student.
It isn't to please peers or coaches.
Ultimately I am here to represent truth in the hearts of humanity, and light in the darkness of this world. We, as sons and daughters of the Creator, are called to these things, so it is ever-so-important to slow down, take a breath, and refocus our hearts and minds on the task at hand.
Consistent Community With the Creator
Devotionals are so important. Quiet time with the Creator is so important. In this time of my life, Scripture, prayer, and writing has truly provided keen insight into how God wants to be represented to His people.
I also have found a disconnect that follows a few days or a week outside of His presence. This time for me in my day has revealed deep truth about our Savior. It is in that same truth that we can then become more authentic in our personal walk. As that truth is directed and understood and manifests itself in our hearts, it begins to increase our capacity in presenting an authentic, tangible walk to those who may be seeking truth in this life.
Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said,’We will not pay attention.’” - Jeremiah 6:16-17 ESV