For the Glory

Athletes, coaches and FCA staff discuss FCA's new camp theme and what is means to truly give God the glory.
By Janet Goreham

Athletes, coaches and FCA staff discuss FCA's new camp theme and what is means to truly give God the glory. H ow many times have you watched a basketball player stand poised at the free-throw line in acute concentration and take a moment to trace a cross over his chest? How often have you seen a baseball player knock the ball out of the park and, during his victory lap around the bases, point his index finger to the heavens in gratitude? How often have you heard national champions thank God during press conferences?

We hear athletes praise God for their good fortune during winning seasons, but how many times have we seen runners-up lift their face to the sky in homage? How many times have we heard a member of a losing team thank God simply for the opportunity to play?

Living in a self-centered society, athletes are continually pressured to compete for their own glory-to see their names in the local newspaper, hear, "Great game!" from an adoring fan, or simply feel the satisfaction of knowing they've accomplished something great.

God, however, calls Christians to compete for Him, and Him alone. And for this reason, FCA selected its 2006 theme, "For the Glory: Now and Forever," inspired by Jude 1:24-25: "Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now, and forever, Amen."

Like past themes-i.e. "Audience of One" (2003), "One Mission" (2004) and "Heart of a Champion" (2005)-"For the Glory" will provide coaches, athletes and Huddle Leaders a way to apply God's Word to everyday competition.

"'For the Glory' is really 'For His Glory,'" said Dan Britton, FCA Senior Vice President of Ministry Programs. "The only glory as Christian athletes we can give is not glory for ourselves, but glory for God. "It's a constant thing that all athletes face. They realize that God gave them their gifts, God gave them their abilities, yet they still use [their gifts] for their own glorification."

And while "For the Glory: Now and Forever" may be an easy phrase to say, what does it really mean? Christians easily grasp the "Forever" part of giving glory to God, as they will ultimately be glorifying God in heaven for eternity. But while on earth, how to apply the "Now" is a different matter entirely.

"Do we fully realize that we have the ability as children of God to glorify Him 24-7 now? Or does it just come in waves or moments?" asked Britton.

One athlete, who, by the world's standards, should have every right to claim glory, recognizes that his talents and abilities come from God. Brandon Cole, a fourth-year guard for the John Brown University ( Ark. ) men's basketball team and a 2005 FCA Camp intern, has a long list of accolades.

Besides being an All-American in 2005, Cole received first-team All-Sooner Athletic Conference honors in 2002, 2003 and 2004. And after leading his team to the NAIA national championship last year, Cole was elected MVP of the 2005 NAIA National Tournament.

Cole also has set multiple records at JBU in the 3-point category and is currently on pace to break the collegiate basketball record for 3-point shots made in a career in any division.

Yet even though Cole continues to rack up the points, set records and win championships with his team, he prefers not to talk about himself.

"I realize that when I gave my life to God, and when I dedicated everything to Him, it's no longer my life and none of these awards are mine," said Cole. "It's all His, and it's all for His glory. It's very humbling to me to know that at any point He could take it away, and at that point, what would I do? Would I still be able to say that everything I do is for Him?"

This summer FCA hopes to challenge athletes to take on the attitude that Cole so humbly displays. "It's not about how big we can get as athletes; its how big God can get," added Britton. "And unfortunately some athletes realize that they can get big by adding God to the mix. It's not about adding God to the mix, God is the mix. God is not part of the equation, He is the equation.

"We as athletes say, 'Well, this faith thing can help me even more, so we'll say, 'For God's glory,' but really what we mean is, 'God can help me get more glory.'"

With this theme, the goal of FCA is to help players understand that athletics and competition are not about glorifying the athlete or the coach, but about using God given talents and gifts to return glory to Him.

Florida State football coach, Bobby Bowden, on FCA's theme, "For the Glory"...

"The great thing about FCA is that they're trying to get athletes to realize where they got their talent and then to use it to glorify God and influence kids. It's important because all kids look up to somebody and have heroes. You try to get athletes to live a life that these kids can see that will help them become good people."

Bobby Bowden, head coach of the Florida State University football team and dedicated supporter of FCA, knows what it means to be in the spotlight. Revered as possibly one of the greatest college football coaches in history, Bowden is the only coach in the NCAA to win 11 consecutive bowl games (1985-95) and have 14 consecutive bowl appearances (1982-95).

During his career with the Seminoles, which began in 1976, Bowden had recorded 278 wins, 70 losses and four ties through the 2004-05 seasons. In addition, FSU, since joining the Atlantic Coast Conference 13 years ago, has landed 12 conference championships and set the league record for consecutive victories.

Coach Bowden knows how to lead a team has the wins to prove his success and has even bigger fan support. Yet when asked about his accomplishments, he responds with utmost humility.

"I've really never felt successful," said Bowden. "We've done some good things [at FSU], but I feel like everything I've done has been given to me, and it's because of other people. All of the games we've won, players won them and assistant coaches won them."

Despite how he feels about his success, Bowden remains one of the most victorious football coaches in history. And rather than soaking up the glory for himself like a sponge, he reflects God's glory like a mirror.

"Basically, a sponge robs God the glory that He's due," offered Britton. "If we're mirrors-the concept that brought about 'For the Glory'-God looks at our performance and sees a reflection of His Son, Jesus."

Reflecting God's glory is often easy when athletes or coaches stand in the spotlight and have the opportunity to thank God in front of reporters and media cameras, but what about the times when no one is looking?

"Do you believe that breaking into a full sprint in the middle of a drill on the practice field when the coach isn't looking is as much worship as reading God's Word?" challenged Britton. "Is one more important than the other?"

Eric Liddell, a 1924 Olympic gold medalist in the 400-meter race, thoroughly understood what it meant to worship God through athletics-so much so that he refused to race on the Sabbath; a choice that almost cost him the opportunity to compete. His character's famous line in the 1981 film, Chariots of Fire , says, "God made me fast, and when I run I feel His pleasure."

In the same way, athletes of all ages and at any level of competition can glorify God, simply by using the gifts that He gave them.

This summer, FCA hopes that kids and coaches will learn to experience God's blessing when competing for Him. "We basically want athletes and coaches to get a glimpse of God's glory, to taste the Lord and know that He is good," said Britton. "It is our ultimate goal that they can walk off the court or off the field saying not just that they gave it their, but that they gave God their all."

For more on this topic read the Voice of Experience.