To gain or regain possession of (something) in exchange for payment.
A redeemed athlete is an athlete who has been bought by God for God. This is foundational to understand. What we do flows from a growing understanding of who we are. A redeemed athlete is first and foremost an adopted child of God, bought through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But what does a redeemed athlete look like? What follows are seven traits or characteristics that are evident in their lives—at some level.
They have been redeemed
Perhaps the most obvious (and assumed) trait of a redeemed athlete is that they are actually redeemed. What does it actually mean for someone to be redeemed? According to the Bible, it means we have both repented of our sin and believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This usually plays out in four simple steps.
Step 1: We believe that God loves us and desires to be in a relationship with us.
Step 2: We understand that our sin makes this impossible.
Step 3: We trust that Jesus did the impossible for us: He came and lived the perfect life—in our place, and died to pay the penalty of our sins. He then rose from the dead proving His power over death and offering us eternal life with God.
Step 4: We communicate this belief of Jesus as our Lord and Savior to God with a prayer that could sound something like this:
“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Thank you for making me in your image, giving me value and dignity, for allowing me to know you, and for adopting me into your family. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be. Help me to love You and love others.”
They don’t divorce God from their sport
The redeemed athlete understands that when God purchased them through the death and resurrection of Jesus, He purchased everything. This includes their sport. Against this backdrop, the redeemed athlete does not leave God behind when it’s time to engage with their sport. They do not go long stretches of practice or play without consciously thinking about how God wants to be included in what they are doing.
God wants us to give Him what is rightfully His. This does not mean He wants to take it from us so we can never use (or play) it again, but that He wants us to leverage it in a way that magnifies His name. In practicing the discipline of including God in all aspects of sport, the redeemed athlete increases their own joy—and glorifies God in the process.
They see sport as a tool in their sanctification
It can be easy for athletes who identify as Christians to view their sport as the bank in their life that God deposits blessing into when we are living obediently before Him. In this view, worldly success in sport becomes God’s way of rewarding us and lack of success is God telling us to step up our spiritual game.
The redeemed athlete understands that they are the clay and God is the master potter. In this view, sport is a tool God uses on the spinning wheel to shape us—in a way that He deems best—to help us become more like Him.
Wins, losses, injuries, benchings, and championships are all different ways that He is trying to help us look more and more like Jesus. This does not mean they are void of emotion when things don’t go how they want in their sport. They give themselves the freedom and permission to be upset or frustrated. But they also have a wide angle lens of perspective that allows them to snap out of it more quickly than others.
They see sport as one of the primary ways they live out Colossians 3:23
Colossians 3:23 is such a challenging verse. It says “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” God wants our full focus to be on Him in everything we do. Brushing our teeth? Yes. Cleaning the dishes? Yes. Studying for a test? Yes. Everything.
For the athlete, the majority of their time is spent thinking about, practicing, preparing, and playing their sport. The redeemed athlete understands that God has uniquely gifted them and attempts to bring an “Audience of One” type mentality to every part of their athletic experience. This does not mean they will always do this perfectly, but they keep trying on a daily basis to leverage their sport in a way that gives them more of God, instead of settling for the fleeting approval of others.
They see sport as a mission field
One of my favorite verses is Acts 17:26-27. It says “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.”
I love this verse because it reminds me that God placed me where I am at for a purpose. I am not an accident and the state, city, street, and address I reside in is not an accident. The redeemed athlete understands that God has uniquely gifted them and uniquely placed them. They see their teammates and coaches as a mission field.
They view them not as projects, but as image bearers of God desperately needing to know God desires to be in a relationship with them. Their sport gifts (no, I didn’t mean to type “gives”) them the opportunity to rub shoulders daily with the very people God wants them to influence. And they take advantage of it.
They constantly ask themselves hard questions
The redeemed athlete understands the power that sport has to control their lives. They make it a priority to hold the mirror up to themselves, ask hard questions, and have the self-awareness and accountability to answer honestly. They ask questions like:
Do I see myself primarily as a child of God or as an athlete?
When my teammates and coaches experience me, are they seeing someone who is trying to follow Jesus?
Is my sport consuming all of my thought life?
Am I allowing margin in my life for God to speak to me?
These questions are hard, but redeemed athletes have the courage to face them head-on. They answer them understanding that God gives them grace for still being a work in process.
Redeemed athletes probably have a trusted person they can process tough questions these tough questions with on a regular basis.
Their prayer life reflects kingdom priorities
Is it ok to pray for success in sports? I think so. However, a redeemed athlete has a prayer life that ventures beyond themselves and pleads for the good of others as well. They have a maturing understanding of what God wants through consistent time in the Bible and they make an effort to ask God for the grace and mercy to align their lives with His will.
Their prayer life is not perfect. They do not always say the “right” things. But the redeemed athlete knows the privilege of having unlimited access to the God of the universe—and they take advantage of it. They do this not because they have to or because they know it’s what they are supposed to do, but because they truly love God and value their relationship with Him above all else.