Updated: 3 days ago
Believe it or not, this is actually the first book review I’ve ever written as an adult…
In fact, I’ve been so blessed by this book, and so excited to write this review, that I’m actually beginning this post before I’ve actually finished the book!
I received The Christian Athlete book by post on Saturday, 21st May 2022, and as of today (Tuesday, 31st May 2022), I’ve just finished chapter 11, which leaves 3 more chapters and the conclusion. Since I’m reading one chapter a day, I should finish this book by the end of the week — and I’m looking forward to telling you guys all about it!
How I discovered the book
I know it was Abba who led me to this book, without a doubt. I’d never even heard of the author before (Brian Smith); I’d never heard of the book title (which was actually on pre-order when I ordered it), I’d never heard of Brian Smith’s website (TheChristianAthlete.com), and I’d never even heard of the publisher under which the book was published, ‘David C Cook’.
My discovery came at the beginning of April 2022, through a young American Christian influencer (Amanda Pittman) that I have followed on social media (probably for around 8 years at this point). She had just shared that she had signed to a new women’s publishing imprint, ‘Esther Press’. Now, for even more context, I don’t actually go on Instagram regularly at all… and when I do go on, it’s usually just to post and then I log off again (this is just an intentional habit that I built a number of years ago to guard my own heart). However, this day, when I logged on, I saw Amanda’s post about her new book deal, and it caught my attention...
As someone who helps Christian authors to self-publish their books, and is also a self-published author myself, with my own publishing house and children’s imprint, I’m always interested to see how professional Christian publishers operate (so that I can continue to improve mine) … So, when I saw Amanda’s post, I followed the link and discovered David C Cook. And right there, on their Instagram page, I saw this book, “The Christian Athlete”.
Why I purchased the book
Now, you may have just discovered this blog post that you’re reading through a search or a referral, so you may not know anything about me whatsoever. I’ll try not to divert too much, but let’s just say, I am a Christian athlete, and the Lord has called me to ministry.
In April 2022, when I discovered the book, I was in a position where I was at the beginning of what I’m calling a sabbatical season in my athletics. This is actually not the first time I’ve felt the Lord call me to something like this; however, it was extremely difficult for me to let go this time around as I had let disappointments, discouragement, and a sense of entitlement harden my heart towards God over the previous few years. However, in April, that’s where I was, in a place of obedience in my athletics, but not necessarily completely happy about it yet.
When I saw the title of Brian Smith’s book and read the description, I felt a gentle nudge from the Holy Ghost to buy it — so I pre-ordered it — and I’m glad I did.
What I gained from the book
Now that I’ve finished the book (Saturday, 4th June 2022), I can officially tell you that it was AMAZING!
There are some books that you read in your life that you can say change your life. This is one of those books for me. It has come at such a divine time in my walk and has truly helped me to refocus and once again do athletics #ForAnEternalPrize (which is actually the hashtag for Believers on Track, the athletics ministry that the Lord has given to me)!
Without a doubt, my favourite chapters in the book are:
Chapter 5: On Losing
Chapter 6: On Injuries
Chapter 9: On Riding the Bench
Why? Because since I returned to athletics (in October 2015) this is honestly where I’ve spent most of my time (LOL – funny but it wasn’t fun at the time). However, I had become so discouraged from believing the lies that I couldn’t possibly glorify God or impact people for Jesus because I had seen little to no success since my return. You see, as a junior and U23 athlete, I represented Great Britain regularly and have a 100m European Youth Olympic silver medal & 4x100m European U23 bronze medal to my name. But since I returned to athletics as a senior, I’ve barely even come close to my personal best (which is still from 2011) and have only actually had 2 complete seasons since I returned to the sport.
In his book, Brian mention’s something that I had also observed in my years as an athlete which is partly why I had begun to feel so discouraged:
“…when Christian athletes win and use their platform to talk about Jesus, Christians notice and want to hear more from that athlete...” (From Chapter 5: On Losing)
I have seen this first hand in my 20 years in athletics. But since I wasn’t winning, it just seemed like hardly any Christian athletes were interested in anything I had to say with regards to growing as a believer in Track & Field. I honestly felt like ‘if Christians, who know God, don’t even want to hear/talk about God, why on earth would unbelievers want to listen?’ But Brian continues by saying this:
“…When Christian athletes lose and still make much of Jesus, it’s non-Christians who notice and want to hear more from that athlete.”
I hadn’t seen it like that.
Throughout my years of “losing” I have been “making much of Jesus” — that’s essentially what I’ve been led to do through my vlogs and blogs. But I honestly never thought about the fact that it could be having an impact on unbelievers.
Instead of looking to Abba to use my “failure” for His glory and in His own way, I began to lean on my own understanding, and since I wasn’t performing well on the track, I couldn’t understand how the ministry the Lord had shown me (and continued to show me) was supposed to come to be. I felt a little bit like Moses who saw things initially turn for the worse when God sent him back to Egypt to deliver his people:
22 Then Moses went back to the Lord and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? 23 Ever since I came to Pharaoh as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!” (Exodus 5:22-23, NLT)
Things initially looked bad for Moses. Almost like God didn’t send him. But by hardening Pharaoh’s heart, God was able to display His miraculous signs & wonders. And, in fact, when Moses did finally deliver the Israelites from Egypt, it wasn’t just the Israelites that went with him. There were also many Egyptians (i.e., non-believers).
37 That night the people of Israel left Rameses and started for Succoth. There were about 600,000 men, plus all the women and children. 38 A rabble of non-Israelites went with them, along with great flocks and herds of livestock. (Exodus 12)
I had lost my way a little bit, as the enemy had come at me HARD the past few years, and I allowed his lies to cloud my judgment, taking my eyes off my true purpose for doing the sport. I began to strive towards success in the flesh as opposed to remaining in a place of rest in the Spirit, which is the only way to produce FRUIT.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me … 8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15, KJV)
At the end of the day, it’s fruit that glorifies God, not the winning nor the losing, they are simply vehicles or platforms that God can use (and He can use them both!). The Christian Athlete book by Brian Smith is a great reminder of this, so thank you Brian for allowing the Lord to use you.
Since reading this book, my perspective has truly shifted, and I can now see that this sabbatical that Abba has me on is actually His gift to me. He has given me the opportunity (not a punishment) to return to a place of rest, a place where I can produce fruit and renew my strength so that I can run and not be weary — because I really had become weary in doing good.