Greater Performance

Written by Carolyn McDonough (Pennington, New Jersey)

Carolyn is on staff with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), where she is passionate about reaching her community with Jesus through the avenue of sports. She coaches lacrosse, runs and does triathlons. Anything endurance is her cup of tea. She also loves time at the beach in the summer and skiing in the winter.

November 19, 2023

We live in a world that is geared and wired from the innermost fibers of society with performance.
Society has an undercurrent that says that the value of a person in a company, in a school, and even in the arena of sports, is influenced and determined by their performance.
Performance is an avenue that God created for Him to be glorified.
However, performance can become a dangerous pressure-cooker for individuals who make it their foundation, their identity, and their source of worth. 

So how do we navigate through the beautiful tension of working toward greater performance for God’s glory as athletes while having a sure and firm foundation in the greatest performance of Jesus’s finished work on the cross?
I want to highlight five practical steps that can lead to greater performance as an athlete while emphasizing the greatest performance that our worth, value, hope, and confidence can rest in.
Specifically, these points below are geared more to what we can do as athletes off the track, the road, and the trails to reach a higher level of performance.

  1. Recovery.
    As I’m writing this, I’m currently in Boston, Massachusetts getting ready to row in the Head of the Charles Regatta, the world’s largest three-day regatta and the oldest head race in the United States.
    As a former collegiate rower, my coach explained to our team about the importance of the “recovery” in the rowing stroke and how a good recovery helps to move the boat forward.
    After every stroke that we take in a boat, as we slide back up to the “catch” where we put our oars back into the water to take another stroke, we have a quick “recovery”, where we can relax our bodies for a moment before applying power and force for the next stroke.
    This recovery is critical for advancing the board forward.
    The better and more balanced the recovery is, the faster the boat can move. 

Recovery is critical to our lives.
Rest is necessary,  required and created by God to help us move to a greater performance in life.
Psalm 46:10 says,

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

Psalm 46:10

There are moments in our lives that we need stillness, rest, and recovery.
Take a moment to pause and examine if your life needs more rest.
Sleeping, resting, and recovering physically, emotionally, and spiritually is critical for a greater performance in sports and life. 

  1. Fuel.
    Many of us know the phrase, “Garbage in, garbage out!”
    We would never put the wrong kind of gasoline into our cars, yet many of us put foods and things into our bodies that are not truly fueling us for greater strength.
    1 Corinthians 6:19 shares how as followers of Christ, our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit within us and we are called to glorify God in our bodies.
    Taking care of your body is an act of worship to God and you can, “present your body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)
    Eating healthy foods and fueling your body well is critical to perform well as an athlete.
    May we be mindful of not only the foods that we put into our bodies, but also the things that we let our eyes see and our ears hear.
    Fueling our bodies with what is good will enable us to perform even greater for His glory. 
  1. Attitude.
    In Proverbs, Solomon revealed a powerful and sobering truth when he wrote, “As he thinks in his heart, so he is.”
    Your mind is incredibly powerful and can be the rudder that determines the direction of your life.
    Craig Groeschel, a pastor, author, and leadership mentor to many, stated, “Our life is always moving the direction of our strongest thoughts. Most of life’s battles are won or lost in the mind.”
    Training our minds is just as important as training our bodies.
    Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica that God’s will for us is to rejoice always, to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in every circumstance. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
    You have the power to choose your attitude in any situation.
    May we train our minds to live with an attitude of gratitude, joyful expectancy, and dependency on God as athletes and also throughout our lives. 
  1. Flexibility.
    Two rhythms that I have incorporated into my athletic life are stretching and foam rolling.
    Flexible muscles overall are stronger muscles.
    Being flexible as an athlete and in life leads to greater performance and a lower likelihood of injuries.
    A basketball coach from my area said, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be broken.”
    Staying flexible physically, emotionally, and spiritually is important for greater performance.
    Allow God to stretch you and get ready for greater flexibility and performance! 
  1. Consistency.
    Consistency is key.
    Doing the small things consistently leads athletes to greater endurance, greater power, greater strength, greater health, and greater performance.
    Creating rhythms and keeping them in your life is extremely valuable in sports and in life.
    “Be steadfast…” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
    Examine to see if there are any new rhythms you want to incorporate into your life and also if there are any habits you want to remove to get to a greater performance. 

Ultimately, as we talk about performance, the greatest performance that we can find our worth, value, hope, and confidence in is the perfect sacrifice that Jesus gave for us on the cross.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave.
God has given us a sure and firm foundation that we can build our lives upon in Jesus.
Whatever you do, whether it is training for a race, recovering, fueling well, or anything else, remember that our greater performance is for God’s glory and not for the praises of man. 

Prayer and Reflection:

  • Reflect and determine what your life’s foundation is built upon? Is it your performance? Is it God? Or is it something else? 
  • What do you want to become more consistent in? What steps can you start taking today to make that something consistent that you do? 
  • What ways can you fuel yourself better physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
  • When examining your thoughts, what are your strongest thoughts focused on in your life? Are these healthy and life-giving thoughts?  

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