“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” — 2 Corinthians 12:9
God’s Definition of Value
Author Henri Nouwen once pointed out that “we are living in a culture that measures the value of the human person by degrees of success and productivity … Do we dare to look at weakness as an opportunity to become fruitful? Fruitfulness in the spiritual life is about love, and this fruitfulness is very different from success.”
For the Christian, and especially the Christian athlete, it can be difficult to find a balance between the world’s way and God’s way and how they each define value. The world is constantly telling us that being first, winning at all costs, accumulating financial and material wealth, and receiving public acclaim is sum total of a valuable life. And there are many, especially in professional sports, who have done this well.
Yet, there also continue to be headlines about athletes who have cheated and used performance-enhancing drugs, athletes who have beaten up their wives and girlfriends, athletes who have gotten a girl pregnant out of wedlock, athletes who have gotten in trouble with the law for a DUI, athletes who have gone to prison for their behavior … even athletes who have committed suicide. These people seemed to have had everything. But they didn’t have the most important things. They didn’t see their weakness as the pathway to success. Society’s standard, in reality, actually let them down.
Years ago, I’ll never forget New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady remarking to an interviewer after winning a Super Bowl, “There’s got to be more to life than all of this.” And I believe that athletes and people everywhere know that inside there is a deep longing for their life to be more than what the world offers. For the things that create a meaningful life rather than mere success on the field, on the court, in the classroom, or in business. For the things that money and fame can’t buy — like love, relationship and community.
As Nouwen pointed out, value in the Kingdom of God looks very different than what the world defines it as. God sees value in even the worst things, and His whole purpose is taking what is seen as invaluable and making it into something of worth. While the world is all about putting your best foot forward and showing off your strengths, God flips this thinking and says that weakness is the vehicle through which He does His best work in an individual’s life. The very areas in which we see the most failure, the very spots we don’t think are worth putting on display, are actually the exact places where the power of God can be best demonstrated in us. And the battling process we engage in daily dealing with those areas, assured of final victory one day because of Christ, is of more value to the Lord than any achievements we could procure here on earth.
Whether you’re a Christian athlete, coach or fan, my challenge to you today is to embrace your weaknesses “as an opportunity to become fruitful.” In 2 Corinthians 12:9-11, the Apostle Paul points out that, after having asked God three times to remove an un-named adversity in his life, God responded to him that His grace was sufficient for him and His power was perfected in Paul’s weakness. To which Paul replied that he would embrace his weaknesses and even talk openly about them, provided that Christ was glorified, adding, “…for when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, after winning the Super Bowl and being named MVP, told the media that he had failure to thank as much as anything for the success he’d achieved: “Failure is a part of life. It’s part of building character and growing. Without failure, who would you be? I wouldn’t be up here if I hadn’t fallen thousands of times, made mistakes. We are all human. We all have weaknesses … I know when people speak and share their weaknesses, I listen. Because I can relate … When you look at a struggle in your life, just know that it’s an opportunity for your character to grow.”
And just maybe, in God’s eyes, this growth, this fruitfulness, is the greatest success of all.
— Katherine Singer
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