by Shannon Caughey
We don’t have to look far to be reminded of the level of darkness in this world. Likewise, there is a lot of darkness in the sports world. Pride, self-centeredness, greed, immorality, abusive language – these sins and others characterize sports culture in many settings. In fact, these sins are often considered “normal” for coaches and athletes. It’s just what everyone does.
As someone who trusts and follows Jesus Christ, you desire to live and coach differently rather than merely blending in with the world. But how do you defend against the efforts of darkness to pull you in? How do you stand firm in Christ—living and coaching for him—when the darkness seems so pervasive?
In 1 Thessalonians, Paul looks ahead to the Lord Jesus’ return. He acknowledges that until then, however, there will continue to be darkness. In the Bible, “darkness” refers to sin, evil, and estrangement from God. Yet, Paul says, believers in Christ do not belong to the darkness. We are “sons and daughters of the light and sons and daughters of the day” (1 Thess. 5:5). Because this is true, we employ the defense that the Lord provides against the darkness around us: “But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet” (1 Thess. 5:8).
The armor of faith, love, and hope in the Lord combats the efforts of darkness. We trust Jesus and his work, and we are secure in his unfailing love for us. Because of this, we are confident that Christ will fulfill his promises even when we don’t yet see it. As 1 Thess. 5:8 makes clear, we are not passive in this. We must “be self-controlled.” Rather than giving in when threatened by the darkness of sin, evil, and the rejection of God and God’s ways, we choose to “put on” our armor.
Consider in particular what it means to put on “the hope of salvation as a helmet.” When we respond to Christ’s love by surrendering in faith to him, Jesus saves or delivers us. We can understand this salvation in past, present, and future terms. Jesus has already delivered usfrom the penalty for our sin through his death on the cross. Jesus is presently delivering us from the power of sin in our life through his Spirit with us and his life in us. Jesus will one day deliver us completely from the presence of sin when we are with him in heaven.
This is the hope we have in Christ! To put on this hope as a helmet is to focus on how our hope in Christ protects our minds against the darkness around us. In the coaching sphere, the darkness includes the temptation to be controlled by fear or to have a cynical mindset. It also includes the pull to participate in the same “normal” sins so prevalent in the sports world. But when we put on hope as a helmet, we remind ourselves that Christ has given us “a Spirit not of fear but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). Rather than cynicism, we “rejoice in the Lord always,” we pray “with thanksgiving,” and we lay hold of “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:4, 6, 7). Our mindset about sin is Romans 6:11 – we “count ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
The hope we have in Jesus—this settled assurance of Christ’s past, present, and future work to deliver us—is the most powerful defense against the darkness around us. Our hope in Christ keeps us focused on him rather than the darkness. It enables us to love those we coach as Jesus does, even when their current choices display a lot of darkness. It fuels in us the quiet confidence that the Lord can work through us to bring his light in the midst of darkness.
Coach, choose to put on the hope of salvation as a helmet day by day. Let the hope you have in Christ protect your mind and guide your perspectives. As you employ this hope-strengthened defense against darkness, you will be a beacon of Christ’s light in your setting.
For reflection: In what ways do you experience the efforts of darkness to pull you in – particularly in your coaching setting? Talk with the Lord about this, and put on the hope of salvation as a helmet.