Persevering Through Setbacks in Athletics

Updated: 3 days ago

Resolute. Steadfast. Tenacious.

These are the words every athlete needs to become if they truly desire to see any form of success or improvement in their sport.

Resolute. Steadfast. Tenacious.

These are the words every believer needs to become if they truly desire to rise above mediocre and comfortability and endure to God’s expected end for their life.

The reality is, Jesus promised us hard times in this life… so why would being a Christian in athletics be any different?

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NLT)

No one imagines their life with hardship. No one imagines their life with setbacks. But the reality is, we live in a fallen world and at some point, or another, each of us finds ourselves walking down a hard road.

Athletics is no different.

All athletes experience setbacks. But the blessing of being believers on track is the confidence that the Lord will use our setbacks for something greater than ourselves. Not every setback will end in the “comeback” we imagine or in the way we desire; however, what we can be confident of is the fact that our Father will use everything we go through to transform us into the image of His Son and to bring Him glory!

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)

My Dream

I had a dream on the 10th of June 2021 in which an athlete asked me how I was able to endure in athletics for so long / persevere through all my setbacks. This athlete and I are not close or even friends in real life, but I believe the Lord used her to represent a particular type of athlete and that’s who this blog is written for.

This is the athlete who has had substantial success as a youth, junior, or u23 but has or is struggling to “transition as a senior”. This is the athlete who, perhaps like me when I was the same age, could never imagine that they would not automatically / smoothly make the senior national team having made it time and time again throughout the age group ranks. This is the athlete who (again like me and perhaps without realising) has/had a little bit of pride and looked down on those “older athletes” who haven’t/hadn’t quite realised their potential.

In the dream, I explained to this athlete that the only way I had been able to stay in the sport as long as I have (despite the disappointments, lack of success, and at times even shame) was without a doubt my faith in God.

I explained that in 2008 the Lord gave me a promise/call saying that athletics would be my platform of influence and that I would run for Him with a word. Then in 2009 and 2010, He made that promise more specific showing me the World Championships.

In my dream, I told that female athlete that when the Lord first told me these things, I had been 18 – 20 years old. And like most teenagers and early twenty-somethings I had envisioned that all these promises of God would happen immediately in my life. In no way did I imagine that 13 years(!) after receiving the initial word from God, that I would still be in a place of waiting. In no way shape or form did I imagine that I would still be doing athletics at 31 years old and not yet have made the senior GB team having been a regular GB Junior and U23 (and medallist).

The only way I have been able to continue all these years, through some of the oh-so-very-lows in my athletics journey has been OBEDIENCE.

And that’s what I want to share and encourage you with, believer on track.

Which Prize Are You After?

I may not yet be able to minister to you from a position of being a World champion. But I believe when it comes to following the Lord and being led by His Spirit, Abba (Father God) has been training me to be world-class in this. So, this is what I can share with you… because the reality is, there are always more athletes disappointed than there are on the podium or smiling at the end of a competition. The reality is the journey towards “athletics success” is often much longer than the moment of success; therefore, we need to learn to navigate the journey. Not just navigate it but come out refined and with the CHARACTER of Christ (which is more important than any medal, success, fame, or influence).

Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; (Hebrews 5:8, KJV)

Jesus Christ our Lord and King learned obedience by the things which He suffered. If He did, then so should we… If He did, then suffering is also a perfect opportunity for us to learn and grow.

As I said before, all athletes go through setbacks… but as a believer on track, will you allow the Lord to REFINE YOU through your setbacks, or is it just about the sporting success? Is it about the eternal prize or is it solely about attaining the temporary one?

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2, KJV)

After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. (Genesis 15:1, KJV)
"All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize." (1 Corinthians 9:25, NLT)

God Himself is our eternal prize, our exceeding great reward. God, Himself is the JOY that enabled Jesus to endure His cross. Many athletes persevere because the desire to stand at the top of the podium drives them — this is natural, and this prize will fade away. But for us, believers on track, we’ve got to be driven by something greater… it must be the love of God in us, His love for us and our love for Him. It’s only this prize that can enable you to endure and hope against hope…to keep believing and persevering when it doesn’t make sense in the natural, and when everything (and perhaps even everyone) suggests you should just give up.

Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb. Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. (Romans 4:18-21, NLT)

Personally, I am always encouraged by Abraham’s testimony because it is a testimony of faith, a testimony of God’s super touching a man’s natural to produce something supernatural that impacted MANY generations (and is still impacting us today). Having a child in and of itself was not unique in the sense that there were countless people who were able to do that. However, what makes Abraham and Sarah’s story unique, and a special part of God’s story, is the fact that God PROMISED and then waited till all odds were against them so that He ALONE could get the glory. All Abraham had to do was continue in faith (evidenced through His obedience).

As believers on track, we also have a chance to bring God glory through our faith (evidenced through obedience). This may simply look like continuing in your event because GOD SAID even though everyone thinks you’re old or that you’ll never breakthrough. This may look like changing events because GOD SAID even though everyone thinks you’re crazy and are making a mistake. This may even look like leaving athletics behind because GOD SAID even though it seems you have so much potential and so many years ahead of you…

At the end of the day, obedience looks different for us all. All that matters is what He has told YOU to do… because it’s only what He’s told you to do that will bring Him glory. It’s only Him that you need to please.

When you KNOW in the depths of your heart what God has promised or commanded you to do personally, your job is simply to continue in faith by remaining obedient. The rest is up to Him. He CANNOT lie (Hebrews 6:18), so if He promised, He WILL do what He said He would… at His appointed time.

This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed. (Habakkuk 2:3, NLT)

God’s word is always accompanied by fruit. His faith; His joy; His peace; His longsuffering. THAT is how you persevere through setbacks in athletics…

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23, KJV) It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it. You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! (Isaiah 55:11-12, NLT)

Make it your goal to seek and do the will of God and allow Him to do the rest.

Jesus said to them, My food (nourishment) is to do the will (pleasure) of Him Who sent Me and to accomplish and completely finish His work. (John 4:34, AMPC) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33, KJV)

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#ForAnEternalPrize