Competitive Stamina

Bill and Norma Proffitt taught me the meaning of work ethic. Owners of a drive-in restaurant, their oft-repeated mantra to their young workforce was, “There’s always something to do,” and we were expected to take initiative in noticing and addressing tasks in need of attention. Eventually entering my profession, then, I applied myself beyond the obvious, as I’d been taught. Leadership noticed; I advanced quickly and did well. There came a time, though, when I foolishly thought to myself, “From here on, advancement is political.” Predictably, my career stalled until, coming to my senses one day, I resolved to forget about all else and return to what I did best: learning, creativity and focus. My career accelerated soon afterward, and I enjoyed new challenges, opportunities and positions throughout the remainder of my work-life.

Today, we call it “competitive stamina”— maintaining unrelenting readiness and intensity through constant focus, determination and discipline. Without it in sports, teams blow 21-point leads or lose to opponents they took for granted. Without it in life, GPAs slip and careers derail or stall. And without it inside, our spiritual life becomes unfruitful. Of all the apostles, perhaps Paul best understood stamina. “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,” he said, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”1 He likewise urges us to refocus our hearts and minds: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”2

“Since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit,”3 the apostle exhorted. What does this look like? “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”4Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests,”5 and “Stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.”6 Peter would remind us of our invisible opposition awaiting the opportune time to strike: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”7 And David would chime in through song, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”8

Life in Christ, walking in the Spirit, prayer, unity, wisdom, and the Word—these are God’s gifts of grace. Through them, He sustains us; we gain competitive stamina. So today, let’s run to win.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
1 Corinthians 9:25

Father, grace us in Your strength to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.9 In His name we pray. Amen.

1 Philippians 3:13-14
2 Colossians 3:1-2
3 Galatians 5:25
4 Colossians 4:2
5 Ephesians 6:18
6 Philippians 1:28
7 1 Peter 5:8
8 Psalm 119:10-11
9 Hebrews 12:1-2