It can be one of the loneliest, and oftentimes, discouraging experiences to walk the narrow path of following Christ on a college campus. These feelings can be even more intense in a team atmosphere where you’re constantly surrounded by others who don’t believe what you believe, or who live their lives in a way that you don’t.
It may feel like your differences are the only things you can see. But it doesn’t have to feel this way! It’s all a matter of perspective.
"I want to become an athlete of influence!"
While there was always a sense of separateness between my teammates and I due to our differing views and lifestyles, there was always an underlying sense of grace and inclusion. Throughout this article, I’ll be delving into a few tips that I personally used throughout my collegiate years as a student athlete in order to stay strong in my faith and encouraged in the Lord.
Find fellow believers
First, the most important practice to implement is to take hold of every opportunity besides weekly church services to be in the company of fellow believers.
In Hebrews 10:25, we are admonished to “not neglect meeting together…” Sheep belong in a flock, and it’s important to submit to spiritual leadership during your collegiate years by finding a church home. The easiest way that sheep are attacked by wolves is when they stray from the flock and away from the covering and protection of a shepherd. Be intentional about finding a church community to join and serve.
This is in addition to Christian events and organizations such as Athletes in Action or others that are active on your campus. Once school and sport obligations are fulfilled, attending Christian events on campus or in the surrounding area will definitely serve to encourage you in your walk with Christ.
Renew your mind
Another habit that served me extremely well was being very proactive in filling my mind with the Word and Spirit of God through music, sermons on Youtube, podcasts, and audiobooks. I was enthralled when I discovered Christian Hip Hop for this very reason. The more I found myself filled with the Word through these platforms, the more I found myself armed and secure in my identity in Christ.
This further enabled me to live unashamed before my teammates and classmates. I wasn’t concerned as much with being an outcast on my team because I constantly surrounded and filled my mind with the things of God.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Lastly, remember this quote from St. Francis of Assisi: “It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”
Our main goal as believers is to be light in a dark world. Put simply, we do this by how we act and speak toward others. But it starts with our heart and attitude toward them.
The goal isn’t to focus or obsess on overtly convicting and/or converting your teammates. You are in their lives for a season with the potential to have an impact on them for the rest of their lives. It’s important to remind yourself not to have an obvious agenda with your teammates. This usually repels people from authentic relationship.
Unless someone has explicitly asked for your help, attempt to live as authentically as possible and whomever you are called to impact within your “sphere of influence” will be drawn to you regardless. You are planting seeds that you may never see the fruit of.
One plants, another waters, but it is God who causes it to take root, grow and produce fruit. We are co-workers in God’s service (1 Corinthians 3:6-9).
The truth of the matter is that it’s unlikely for you to be the only proclaiming Christian on your team. But, it is very likely that you are the only one who is intentionally living in a way that seeks to give God glory.
You cannot change people around you, but you always have the ability to manage and transform your own thinking towards them and the situations you are faced with.
Remaining in constant prayer for your teammates as well as for your own heart towards them will empower you to display what an authentic walk with Christ looks like.