By Josh Reynolds
A common characteristic among all people is our constant pursuit and concern for an “image”. I see this in my own life each day. It helps me decide how long to stand in front of the mirror before walking out the door, what clothes I should wear that day, how I present myself through phone or email conversations, my latest tweet, or even how much time I invest in my lawn. How we project our image to others tells us much about what we value in life. There seems to be a false image projected that often tries to cover up what we know to be true. Our real image is messed up.
Athletes are constantly fighting for an image. They want to appear confident, skilled, and successful. They may be motivated differently or have differing goals, but I would argue the ultimate reason why athletes compete is their desire for happiness. In John Piper’s classic book, Desiring God, he shares a quote from Blaine Pascal on this desire for happiness. Pascal says:
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.
Piper goes on to argue that Pascal’s conclusion is foundational to the Christian life. Man’s desire and pursuit of happiness is not sinful in itself. Rather, it is a part of our nature, embedded in our very fabric as human beings. The problem lies in the object of that happiness. Who or what do we pursue for our source of satisfaction and joy?
For the athlete trying to present a certain image, it is typically focused on how successful they will be in competition. They want to be bigger, faster, stronger, and better than the competition to present an image and they believe the lie that this image will make them happy. In sports today, we even see a major focus placed on outward appearance. Alternate uniforms are all the rage in college football. Shoe and clothing companies are investing more dollars in the “branding” of their products. Every sport and athlete has a unique perspective on what is “cool”. I once had a teammate who seemed to spend more time in the mirror on game day than he did in the film room. His motto was, “If you look good, you play good!” Unfortunately, that wasn’t always true for him. All of this is part of the image athletes try to project to bring joy and happiness to their lives.
In the Scriptures, we see the theme of “image” from Genesis-Revelation. The Bible says we were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-28) and that image got ruined through the fall of Adam (Rom. 5:12-21). The Bible uses phrases like “dead in sin”, “wicked”, “children of wrath”, “enemies of God”, “depraved”, “unregenerate” to describe human beings born into this world. Now, our entire lives are marked by this ruined image. We seek to live our lives for the glory of man, constantly pursuing joy in the things of this world. We are in need of renewal of the image we had in the Garden before sin entered the picture. The good news is that God’s plan of redemption is to make all things new (Rev. 21:5). Through the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ, God will not only make a new heavens and a new earth, but He promises to “re-create” (2 Cor. 5:17) all those who repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ. He promises to restore our image in Christ (Col. 3:10; 2 Cor. 3:18). As we stop looking at ourselves and turn to Jesus Christ, He will change and forgive us (2 Cor. 4:6). And our source of joy and satisfaction can then be found eternally in the everlasting source: Jesus Christ.
It is a near universal truth that we become what we behold. Our lives are shaped by the things we focus our hearts on each day. If all I did each was feast upon junk food, this will be reflected in my health and body’s appearance. My words and mannerisms often reflect those of my closest friends. The athlete becomes a reflection of his coach. A child becomes like her parents. In the same way, a Christian should reflect the image of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In one way, our image does get restored when we first lay eyes on the Savior. God makes us new creations, gives us new desires, and views us like His Son. Our position in Christ will never change. In another way, we often tend to go back to our old patterns of life, finding our image, identity and joy in things besides Christ. This is the reason that Christians must constantly fight to “behold” the Savior and keep our eyes on Him. Until our glorification at the end, God plans to conform his children more and more into the image is Son. This is done as we remind ourselves of the gospel, looking to Jesus Christ, and beholding his beauty. God, by the power of His Spirit, uses this transformative vision of Christ, to change us each day. (2 Cor. 3:18).
For the Christian athlete, it is vital to fight for and pursue this image of Jesus Christ. The pursuit must be one of faith, believing the truths found in the gospel and turning away from the false images we face each day. It is a pursuit for true happiness, joy, and satisfaction. It is a pursuit of conforming to the image of Jesus Christ, by His word and through the Spirit in every circumstance we face. If John Piper and Pascal are right about their view on man’s desire to be happy, then athletes should pursue this happiness by going to the source: Jesus Christ. Every other source will fail them in the end. There is amount of worldly success or false images that can compare to the all-surpassing glory for those who put their hope and trust in Jesus.Print this Page