How Jesus transformed my attitude in sport by Shinn Kawasaki
"God, How do I show you that I Love you?"
Ever since I accepted Christ as my Lord and saviour in 2014, I had been praying and wrestling with a question. "God, How do I show you that I Love you?"
As I reflected on the culture of the many sports teams I had been a part of, including my current football team Lucky Mile, it became apparent to me that I always viewed my teammates as just friends who I played and talked about football with and not much more. We would meet at least twice every week for training and game day and our conversations were generally quite shallow and to be honest I didn't think much of it.
A Renewed Perspective
In 2015 I attended a talk about sports chaplaincy, where I learnt about how being involved in sport is actually a massive opportunity to bring about the love, grace, mercy and ultimately the hope of Christ to those we meet and see in our sports teams and clubs.
It blew my mind as I gained a renewed perspective on my own situation in realising that my teammates were so much more than simply friends I see at football, but that they were actually part of the ministry that God has called me to. As Christians, we are called to love. First to love God with all our hearts and second, to love our neighbours as ourselves.
When I reflect on my team now compared to two seasons ago, it's so clear that God has been working. We were once a team that was falling apart from lack of leadership, egos, entitlement and pride that contributed to the pollution of our teams atmosphere. However, I began to pray intentionally for my team, for God to send help and bring opportunities to share and demonstrate the love of Christ and ultimately for salvation for my teammates.
Once I surrendered my team team to the Lord, there was a personal shift in my heart for prioritising relationships with my teammates over our results and some interesting changes occurred.
No task was too small
I began actually caring! I've been playing with some of my teammates for over 4 years and still couldn't tell you much about their personal lives, interests and what they might be going through. So for the next season I made it my mission to get to know everyone better and develop authentic friendships.
My attitude at training and games became about putting the others first. No task was too small for me whether it's picking up cones, organising kit or even carrying our gear on game day (which was once something I never really wanted to do). It all became a privilege and a way for me to be worshipfully serving my teammates and God in the place he's put me in.
I became comfortable in who I am in Christ in that environment, and as weeks and months went by opportunities to share my faith began to increase. For the first time I, began to see my teammates as brothers.
I even began to invite teammates to come to church and to try alpha & was stoked to have 6 of them there for my baptism! It's amazing how to start with there were only two Christians on the team and today we have 4, with two of us made captain and vice captain which has given us greater authority to lead by example and speak life over our teammates.
The dynamics of our team today has significantly shifted. We are a lot more relational and respectful towards one another and there is a culture of lifting each other up over the old days of putting each other down. That's not to say there hasn't been any conflict along the way, but by Gods grace even in the midst of conflict there has been great opportunity for restoration, understanding and growth.
Impossible Really Is Nothing For God
So what I've learnt in the last two years is that unlike Adidas, impossible really is nothing for God. It's so important to invite Him in everything you do for it is He who is glorified. I once thought that there was nothing much I can do to make a difference in the lives of the people on my team. This is the biggest lie.
Pray bold prayers and Ask God how you too can love your teammates and have the courage to go ahead and do it, for He is with us! I remember being told once to talk to God about others before you try to talk to others about God.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV)
As Christians we are to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19) but it doesn't happen by forcing others into a relationship with God, but rather to demonstrate the love of Christ in all that we do both on and off the pitch, and when the opportunity comes to invite, be courageous.
I have faith that more of my teammates will come to get to know Jesus. So if you ever wonder how to show God you love Him, let His words "Feed my sheep" in John 21:15 pierce your heart as it did mine and bring you to action.
Shinn Kawasaki: God called me to care for my teammates