Daily Devotional: Friday, February 16 - Intangibles Matter

“The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” — Ecclesiastes 9:11

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The tennis world — and sports at large — is excited about the comeback of Rafael Nadal, someone whose talent and big heart for humanity have kept him at the top of the sport for close to 20 years. What he’s accomplished is exceptional, earning him high praise from even those outside tennis, like Tiger Woods and Cristiano Ronaldo — 22 majors (14 of them at the French Open alone!), more than 912 straight weeks of being in the ATP top 10, the only player to win at least one slam for 10 consecutive seasons, the most Grand Slams won without dropping a single set… the list could go on and on. Yet, as Nadal hints that 2024 could possibly be his final season, I think it’s worth looking into some of his intangibles that he will be remembered for long after he retires.

1. Longevity — It’s incredible to think that the guy has been winning tournaments, evolving and tweaking his game, and remaining competitive nearly two decades after his first appearance on the ATP Tour. He has won the Barcelona 500 tournament 12 times in his career, the last one coming in 2021. To keep yourself and your game relevant for that long is an achievement in itself, and a testament to Nadal’s adaptation and competitive greatness.

2. Heart — “Ready to suffer, ready to fight.” Rafa has often used this phrase to describe his mental attitude toward his matches. Every single time he steps on the court, he is expecting a battle. He is prepared to sweat and grind and work and hustle, and his will to endure has allowed him for years to wear down opponents and outlast even the best competition in the moments when it matters most. He would rather steel himself for a fight than underestimate the player on the other side.

3. Stability — Nadal noted that one of his keys to success was that if he couldn’t add something to his game, he tried to not subtract anything. His goal was to maintain and keep his game stable if it was not growing.

4. Compassion — One of reasons Rafa has been loved for so long is his caring heart. He once actually paused a match momentarily as he heard a child cry in the stands, and it turned out the kid was separated from their parent. Rafa refused to resume play until he knew the child was in good hands and had been reunited with their family.

While there are certainly many more things we could learn from Rafael Nadal, this list gives us some wonderful takeaways from his legendary career. Don’t be afraid to keep learning and adapting, allowing God to grow you, in order to endure in life and your walk with God for the long haul. Expect to encounter suffering along the way. Prepare to battle hard every day for the things that matter. When you can’t add anything, at least maintain what you already have, being steadfast and stable, fixed and firm. Always lead and live with compassion for those around you, seeking to reflect God’s heart.

In whatever you do, always remember that the intangibles matter. The attitude you bring, the expectations you have, how you treat others, and the posture of your heart are even more important than the results. Success is great, but how you get there is just as important as getting there at all.

— Katherine Singer

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