Have you ever heard the term “There is no ‘I’ in the word ‘team’”? Indeed, the unit of a sports team is the most tightly-bonded and family-like group that an athlete will ever be a part of. Sport teams turn a bunch of individuals into one group through the flames of intense work and the need to depend on one another. If each person does not invest 100% into the game, the whole team will suffer.
I grew up in the athletic world. My father was an Olympic baseball player and my mother was a devoted cross-country runner. Personally, I found my passion in water sports. During the summer, I would be in swim team and water polo in the morning, then practice diving in the afternoon. During the fall and spring, I would play soccer and basketball. I experienced my teams fail, and I experienced my teams rise and conquer. We succeeded together, lost together, and worked together to make every game or swim meet better than the last.
I came to trust in my team. I came to believe in my team. I came to identify as an important part of my team. As Michael Jordan once spoke, “Talen wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” To say that Michael Jordan is an amazing athlete is a gross understatement. Even this great basketball player, however, understands that he cannot conquer the NBA alone. It takes individual talent and devotion to add something to a team, but each person also needs to be able to work seamlessly with others in order for everyone to reach a lofty goal.
It is important, however, for the Christian athlete to understand that Christ and His commandments always comebefore the need of the team. I would like to highlight David for a moment. Most Christians are familiar with the story of David and Goliath. This historical account is used to inspire people when they feel that they are facing a “giant” in their life, such as a huge game or striving to overcoming personal goals. I would like to focus on some of David’s less-known life events, however.
After Saul tried to kill David, he fled the king’s presence and was constantly on the run. Men came and “gathered around David” (1 Sam. 22) and, before too long, David had his own “team” around him. They survived together, raided together, and had a deep bond within the group. The men respected David as their leader, as shown in 1 Samuel, chapters 24 and 26. The men wanted to kill Saul as soon as they had a chance, but David feared God and kept the men from doing so. David understood that God’s commandments always came before the “commandments” of those around him.
David had many “mighty men” on his team (2 Samuel 23) and he had a bond to hold his team together, but the group still failed at times and got frustrated. At one point, David’s men even wanted to kill David! The Scripture say that, in this dark time of David’s life, he “found strength in the LORD his God.” (1 Samuel 30:6 NIV) What did David do when his team fell apart? He turned to the Lord! Christian athletes need to learn from David’s example.
The sport team is very important. Individual achievement coupled with respect for each other and good teamwork is what a team needs to succeed. The Christian athlete, however, needs to understand that the team, no matter how “perfect” it may seem, is composed of imperfect people who will fight, turn on each other, and fail. The only source of steady reliability any Christian can depend on is Christ alone.
Play your hardest. Give your best for yourself and for yourteam. Play fair. Play right. Play with honor and respect, but never make your team God. Never listen to the will of the team if it goes against your God-given conscience. Witness to your teammates. Pray for your teammates. Stand out. Be like David. Give up yourself for the sake of the team, but never give up God for the team. Be the best Christian you can be, then be the best athlete you can be—in that order. If your practice time is keeping you from a daily time with the Lord, rework your schedule to make room for the One who blesses you with the ability to play the sport you do.
I leave you with this question:
How are you placing God above your team?