This morning I was reading an interesting USA Today article about wrestler (think Olympics not WWE) Cael Sanderson. The article stood out for two reasons. Number one, as some of you know, I was a wrestler in high school and an exhibit of athletic mediocrity. That makes me instantly impressed by anyone who excels at this sport. Number two, this guy is a stud athlete by any measurable standard. Here’s a brief rundown of Cael’s stat sheet: four time Utah state champ in HS, four time NCAA champ while wrestling at Iowa State, undefeated at 159-0 during his collegiate career, silver medalist in the 2003 world championships, gold medalist in the 2004 Olympics, and this past year as Penn State’s head coach led them to a Big Ten and NCAA championship. He’s already one of the best wrestlers in U.S. history and this weekend he’s competing one more time for a world championship and possibly in the 2012 Olympics.
Reading this article got me thinking: what sets this guy apart? He’s obviously a gifted athlete, but it’s more than just that. If you look at the best of best in any sport- Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Jerry Rice, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Derek Jeter, Michael Phelps (sorry that I’m not familiar with enough hockey players to include them)- they are all extremely talented individuals. But to be the best of the best they also hold a couple of other things in common: they are extremely focused and disciplined. All athletes at those competitive levels are probably in the top 1% of their field, but with these guys who make other top athletes look like tween boys you almost always see this phenomenal degree of focus and discipline. Most of these guys displayed a laser beam focus on the goal of winning an individual or team championship, an incredible commitment to training, and the ability to minimize distractions. You can also find plenty of stories of athletes who had incredible potential but fell short of what they could have accomplished because they were slack in these areas.
I cannot help think what would happen if I displayed this type of focus and discipline… as a husband, a father, a friend, a church-planter, a nonprofit director, and in all arenas as a follower of Jesus. Obviously, no one’s going to write a USA Today article about what happens, give me a golden trophy, or put my name on a plaque in a hall of fame, but that does not make the results any less significant. All of this leads to a few practical questions:
1) What are my areas of God-given ability, talent, or giftedness? I’m not a well-balanced, good at everything type of guy.
2) What goals is God leading me to have a laser beam focus on? I need to remember “less is more.”
3) What behind the scenes disciplines do I need to establish or reestablish? Some of these may be obvious and some not.
4) What distractions and hinderances do I need to throw off? I need to say no to some things so I can say yes to others.
In closing, I think the Apostle Paul must have been thinking something similar as he watched the athletes competing in the Isthmian games of Corinth. The Holy Spirit inspired him to write the following in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control,lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.