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March 2011 Sports Liars

n sports, there exist two liars of the highest order. They lie to competitors of every level from novices to high achievers, the obscure to the famous. These liars are fluent in every language and are skilled in deceiving without awakening the conscience. They both whisper and shout with equal effectiveness, and they never tire, take a day off, or worry about being caught.

Success and Failure…Both are powerful liars that roam every practice, game and match, filling athletes and coaches with confusion about their identity and worth to God. Both are measured by the world through results expressed in wins and losses, points per game, home runs, yards per carry, championships, records, batting averages, strikeouts, and so on. And while Success and Failure may speak truthfully about performance, they don’t tell the deepest truth regarding our ultimate and eternal value.

The Lie of Success
Athletes and coaches who meet Success often hear its lies through the whispers of an inflated sense of selfimportance. Success says, “My team could never do without me. I can do whatever I please.” “I don’t care what the others do; I will get mine today.” “I’m the best player on the court right now.”


Roger Lipe reminds us that our true identity in Christ is defined in Scriptures such as *Ephesians 1:3-14:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, in Christ; for He chose us in Him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us to be adopted through Jesus Christ for Himself, according to His favor and will, to the praise of His glorious grace that He favored us with in the Beloved.

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure that He planned in Him for the administration of the days of fulfillment—to bring everything together in the Messiah, both things in heaven and things on earth in Him.

“In Him we were also made His inheritance, predestined according to the purpose of the One who works out everything in agreement with the decision of His will, so that we who had already put our hope in the Messiah might bring praise to His glory.

“In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation—in Him when you believed—were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. He is the down payment of our inheritance, for the redemption of the possession, to the praise of His glory.”

Success flatters us with words that excite our egos by reciting our accomplishments and comparing us to those “lesser souls” who aren’t faring so well. “My success is obviously the mark of God’s approval. If the Lord wasn’t so pleased with me, I wouldn’t be winning like this.” It lies to our soul as it mimics the voices of flattering fans, hangerson, groupies and fawning media.

Success also distorts the truth of our identity by telling us that we are defined by achievement. It deceives our souls’ sense of worth by making us think that performance alone makes us worthy of love and dignity, and that losers are not worthy of such delights. For Christians, it even tries to convince us that wins are the indicators of a healthy life in Christ.

The Lie of Failure
Failure’s condemning voice on the other hand hisses in our soul’s ear, “You’re not good enough.” “You can’t compete at this level.” “You should quit.” “You aren’t worthy of wearing this uniform.” It shouts at us as we’re defending on the field, “You can’t guard that guy; he’ll embarrass you.” It laughs as we stumble and fall, the pain in our bodies breeding more of its derisive comments.

Worse still are Failure’s accusations that our lack of Success signifies God’s displeasure. “You must have sinned badly to fail so miserably.” “God is angry with you; that’s why you struck out three times.” “Maybe God wants you to give up this silly game and get on with more important things.”

Failure assaults us through the voices of condemning coaches from our past, our never-satisfied parents and our angry teammates. Their voices remind us of our most bitter losses and disappointments. And, just like Success, Failure also lies to us by distorting the truth of our unlimited value to Christ, our identity in Him, and our being totally without condemnation through Him. These lies gnaw at our souls, impeding our progress as lovers of God, and hindering the Lord’s gift of joy in sports.

The Truth
Because both Success and Failure speak lies with equally damaging consequences to our hearts, minds and souls, we must know the truth and understand our infinite value to Christ.

Often, the true value of an object is determined by what another is willing to pay for it. In our case, God paid the highest possible price to redeem us from our hopeless state of sin and rebellion when He sent Jesus to die for us on the cross. (See Romans 5:8.) Such a strong, consistent and unmistakable expression of worth counters the Sports Liars’ assertions that our value is measured in wins and losses. Even on our worst days, Ephesians 1:3-14* is still true, and it reminds us of who we are. Through this passage we find that we are loved, chosen, forgiven, redeemed, and designed for eternity, and that none of it is based on our athletic ability.

Regardless of our performance, the fact is that God chose us before the world began to be holy and blameless in His sight, and that, through Christ, we are totally without condemnation (Romans 8:1). When our own minds condemn us because of our weaknesses or overinflate us because of our achievements, we can still choose to believe the Spirit of Christ as He whispers truth into our hearts. As our Advocate, He speaks unconditional love into our minds and enables us to boldly seek God’s strength for the next practice or competition.

Roger Lipe has been serving athletes and coaches as an FCA Area Representative in Southern Illinois since 1994. Also a noted author, Lipe has written five devotion books including Heart of a Champion—Devotions for the People of Sport and his latest release, Soul Food, Heart Fuel: Scriptures & Prayer for Your Battle with Illness or Injury. He and his wife, Sharon, have been married since 1975. They have one son, Jason, a daughter-in-law, Jenn, and a granddaughter on the way.

--For more stories about faith and sport, visit, the official magazine of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. To subscribe to STV, click here.

Photo courtesy of Roger Lipe

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