As we approach the week of the CrossFit games we can all sort of feel the excitement and the anxiousness surrounding the competition. There’s so many questions that are unanswered today that will be answered by next weekend. Is Mat Fraser the real deal? Can Camille Leblanc-Bazinet repeat? Which one of these crazy superteams will come out on top? I think what I’m most excited to see is a year worth of sacrifice and perseverance pay off for a couple of athletes. There’s no doubt that the teams and individuals who sit near the top next weekend will be athletes who have embodied sacrifice. They have given up a lot of the luxuries and pleasures that most of us enjoy for the sake of excelling next week. This is a quality and a character trait that we all admire and often envy. It’s mind-blowing sometimes to think about what these athletes sacrifice for the sake of winning.
The irony behind our admiration comes when we examine our lives, specifically our lives as they relate to Christ. In all of the Gospels, Christ demands that His followers be those characterized by sacrifice. Specifically in Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23, and Mark 8:34, Jesus commands His followers to be a people who deny the desires and passions of their heart for the sake of taking up Christ’s Cross. This language reinforces the idea that Christians must be men and women who deny the very deepest and most real desires of the heart for the sake of pursuing Christ.
Sam Alberry says it this way, “To take up your cross and follow him means to deny yourself of possibly some of the most inner deepest desires of your heart in order to gain what is far better far more joyful and far more lasting in Christ. This is true for all people at all times. We must be a culture defined by denial of our fleshly desire. ”
Rosario Butterfield resonates with this idea stating, “repentance meant fleeing from anything that embodied the temptations we knew best and loved most.”
I find it interesting that so many Christians admire and honor the sacrifices and lifestyle of self-denial exhibited by so many of our high-level athletes. We elevate these athletes as if they are models to be imitated because they don’t go out on Friday nights with their friends or they go to bed early in order to train well the next day. Their lives are characterized by sacrifice. Yet, we run from this idea in Scripture. The idea that we would deny something our heart feels so connected to or that brings us so much pleasure seems ridiculous. We look at God like he is not worth the sacrifice of something our heart desires so greatly. We look at the cross of Christ and the sacrifice that He embodied and yet can’t deny ourselves of our own sin. Instead, we twist Scripture to make it say what we want it to say, we ignore the commands of Christ for the sake of our own hedonistic desires, and we subtly tell God that we know best when we do things our way despite what He has commanded us to do.
In athletics, there are some basic truths. Training must take a high-priority in your lifestyle. Certain aspects of your life must be put on hold in order to attain the goal of excellence in competition. The same basic truths are laid out for us in Scripture. It would do our culture and the Church a great service to embody the same sacrifice we honor athletes with in our own obedience to the Word of God.