Training Table -- Fruit of the Spirit (Week 8)


“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.’” I Corinthians 5:12


I remember playing golf with a kid in middle school. We’ll call him Jud. We were on the ninth hole, and I was picking up my tee after hitting a solid drive down the center of the fairway. Jud looked at me and said, “I don’t know how you hit it like that. Your swing is so weird.”

The thing is, I liked Jud. I considered him a friend, or a golf buddy, at least. Jud had a nice swing and he was a good golfer. He had long hair, rode a skateboard, and had a portable CD player, which I thought was cool. I think he also listened to Simple Plan. But what he said really hurt.

The toughest thing about writing a devotional on kindness is that everyone says they are kind. Very few people would come out and say, “Yeah, I’m pretty mean.” It’s not really something—whether you believe in God or not—that someone would take pride in. No one likes a jerk. If you brag about being a jerk, there’s a good chance no one likes you.

Jud would say he was kind. I would even say Jud was kind. But Jud still judged when he shouldn’t have. I have still judged when I shouldn’t have.

Many Christians, though outwardly kind, have a judging problem, specifically when it comes to judging those outside the church—different religions, homosexuals, etc. Those who don’t know God cannot comprehend God, so what good does judging do? People need to be loved.

— Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum


“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10


Growing up in Indiana, I spent a lot of time playing basketball in my back yard. I remember always running drills modeled after a Steve Alford workout video that I had. Steve Alford, the head coach at the University of New Mexico, is a Hoosier legend. He helped lead Indiana University to a fifth national championship his senior season and became IU’s all-time leading scorer at the time.

Playing basketball out there made me feel like Steve Alford. I wanted to be as good as him, so to be as good as him, I practiced the way he said to practice. I remember duct taping a broom to a chair to practice shooting like it was over an outstretched arm. I practiced bank shots and reverse layups, which I could never do and still can’t do. I decided I’d never be Steve Alford. He was too good.

It’s crazy how good Jesus is. What’s even crazier is that he calls us to be good like he is—to have the fruit of the Spirit, to train under his workout video, if you will.

Goodness means working for the benefit of others, not oneself. No one in the history of mankind has worked for the benefit of others like Jesus did—his blood was spilled for billions. That is powerful blood. We’ll never be as good as Jesus. But He doesn’t want us to stop trying. We’re called to emulate His traits, to be holy as God is holy, to be good as He is good.

— Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum


“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” I Corinthians 9:24-27


My dad and I recently went to the Billy Graham Museum in Charlotte, NC. One of the things that amazed me most about Dr. Graham was that he never wavered from his calling. He held more than 400 crusades in 185 different countries and six continents. He went to communist countries. He went where he wasn’t welcome. He went to places where he needed a translator. Wherever God called him, he went. Dr. Graham, who counseled 11 presidents, was offered political positions. He was even offered a five-year $5 million contract from NBC. He could’ve done anything he wanted. But he knew his calling. “…I’ll preach until there is no breath left in my body,” Dr. Graham said in an interview. “I was called by God, and until God tells me to retire, I cannot.”

That’s the definition of faithfulness, consistently doing what one says he or she will do. In I Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul says that, like an athlete, he has one goal: to bring as many people to Christ as possible. Are you faithful to your calling like Paul and Dr. Graham? Or are you running aimlessly, fighting like a boxer beating the air?

— Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum


“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:5


Whenever I go to my parents’ house in Indianapolis, I usually don’t sleep too well. It’s not the bed I’m used to; it’s usually a couch. It’s not the environment I’m used to, dark and quiet; the sun glares through the windows and people get up early. I’m usually a heavy sleeper, but at my parents’ house I’ll wake up five or six times during the night, simply because it’s not what I’m used to.

My mother will tell you that when I don’t get a good night’s sleep, I’m not a fun person to be around. I’m irritable, grumpy, and rude. Like a marathoner who hasn’t been training, I don’t perform very well come race time. My inability to get a good rest—whether this is right or wrong—affects the way I treat others. Okay, it’s wrong. But it still happens time and time again.

Gentleness, I think, is most evident in us when we’re getting a proper rest—when we’re resting in Christ. And when we’re resting in Christ, we’re not focusing on ourselves, we’re focusing on God, which allows us to be more selfless, not selfish, which helps us strengthen and encourage others. True gentleness comes from abiding in Christ—spending time in prayer, reading His Word, whatever it may be. When we’re resting in Christ, God continues to mold us into the image of His son, which means we can more easily focus on others.

— Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum


“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” I Corinthians 9:25


Sin can be satisfying. That’s no secret.  I know it may seem wrong to say something like that in a religious magazine, but it’s true. Sin is pleasure. Pleasure feels good.

I think it’s important to understand that in the context of self-control because practicing self-control means that we recognize that God brings us more pleasure. Sin, though fun, is a road to emptiness. God is a road to holiness. Sin is temporary. God is eternal. When we practice self-control, we show God that He is more important than ourselves. When we choose sin instead of God, we are telling God that we are more important. We are telling Him that our plan is better than His.

I had a New Testament professor in college who told us that when Adam and Eve sinned, they basically gave God the finger and said, “Our way is better.” That has always stuck with me. It’s edgy and I like it. It’s true. Sin is despicable. When we choose our way instead of God’s—when we don’t practice self-control—that’s what we’re doing to God.

I’ve come to learn that I flip God off a lot. And if that doesn’t make you squirm, I’m led to question the authenticity of your faith.

A lot of athletes, as mentioned in a Sports Spectrum collaboration project, The Jersey Effect, never grow up. They are adored at a young age and continue to be adored throughout life because they are stars in their sport. Some become inward-focused and long to satisfy every need they have because their needs, as well-known people, can be easily satisfied. In those cases, like Solomon, self-control is rarely practiced. The world is theirs to gain.

It’s tough to practice self-control. Pride, lust, greed—it all needs self-control. But God’s way is everlasting. Ours leads to destruction. Trump temporary pleasure with the knowledge of an eternal pleasure.

—Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum


“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:10

Going Long

Read Matthew 5:10 and meditate on what Jesus said about those who were persecuted for righteousness. What is their reward? Is it worth it? If not, ask God to help you live a life pleasing to Him, and not to man.