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The Spiritual Decathlon

Thu, Jan. 28, 2016 Posted: 02:40 PM


A couple of weeks ago someone mentioned to me how important a small piece I wrote back in 2009 had been to their spiritual growth, so it seemed like a good idea to post it here.

Note: In the article, I mention Bruce Jenner. Sadly, much has changed since 2009 and I do not endorse the current iteration of Bruce Jenner as a role model. But in the piece, I also mention Dave Johnson, whose life in many respects does serve as an example to be followed. After a career in competitive athletics — which included winning the bronze medal for the decathlon at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona — he went on to became a school teacher and administrator, and served as athletic director at Corban University (“educating Christians who will make a difference in the world for Jesus Christ”), and later in a ministry position with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).

Here's the original article:

Last week at the gym, while running on the treadmill, I was watching the decathlon event(s) of the World Championships in Athletics. I’ve always loved the decathlon. I can’t remember just about any of the athletes on Wheaties boxes over the years, but I remember the decathlete Bruce Jenner.* (A word to the wise: Wheaties are totally overrated. After years of eating “the breakfast of champions,” I never won anything and gave up eating them!**)

And what about the legendary ’80’s rivalry between England’s Daley Thompson and West Germany’s Jürgen Hingsen. Or the fascinating rivalry between Dan O’Brien and Dave Johnson in the ’90’s? My contemporaries (in terms of age) and stars of the “Dan and Dave” Reebok commercials in 1992 (which you can see here), a dynamic duo worth watching.

And, of course, there was Jim Thorpe, who cannot be excluded from this illustrious list. He didn’t need Wheaties or Reebok. He just rocked, and that was that.

The thing I love about the decathlon is that you can win it without ever coming in first place in any of the ten events! That’s actually great news for people like me. I’m pretty good at alot of things, but I don’t really excel at anything. (Although I was a pretty outstanding Wheaties eater at one point!) The guiding principle of the event is that of balance, to be consistently good (not necessarily the best) at everything.

It occurred to me that the same is true for biblical living. The one who wants to fully and truly honor and glorify Christ must run well (1 Cor. 9:24; Gal. 5:7), avoid obstacles (Gal. 5:7; Heb. 12:1), stay focused on the goal (Heb. 12:1-2) and persevere to the end (Acts 20:24; 2 Tim. 4:7; Phil. 3:12-15; Heb. 12:1-2). And not just run well, but jump and throw well! It’s about balance. Being reasonably good at everything. All the time. It’s about loving and worshipping and obeying God with your whole being: your heart AND soul AND mind AND strength (Lk. 10:27). And this is absolutely do-able for anyone who is in Christ, because His Holy Spirit gives us the power to finish the race (Acts 1:8; Eph. 1:13-14; 2 Pet. 1:3). And finish it well. For the glory of God the Father (1 Cor. 10:31).

And so, while watching the discus event of the decathlon, I began to wonder what a “spiritual decathlon” might look like. What are the ten most important, non-negotiable aspects of biblical living? The ones that we all need to do well. All the time. My mind settled on the following (in no particular order of priority except for the first one). Most of them are pretty obvious, but the point is to do ALL of them, regularly and well.

1) Be doxologically motivated. (You knew I’d say that, didn’t you. And that I’d put it first! It’s Ps. 96:4: “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise!” It’s 1 Cor. 10:31: “Do everything for the glory of God!” In fact, it’s Genesis through Revelation! It’s the story of the whole Bible and the reason we exist! [Isa. 43:6-7; Eph. 1:11-12])

2) Listen to God. Study, memorize, meditate upon the Word of God. (Ps. 19:7-8; Ps. 119:9-16; Heb. 4:12)

3) Talk to God. Adoration, thanksgiving, intercession, confession and repentence. (Mt. 6:9-15; Phil, 4:6; 1 Thes. 5:17)

4) Rejoice in the Lord. (Phil. 4:4; 1 Thes. 5:16)

5) Maintain an “attitude of gratitude” to God. (Phil. 4:6; Col. 2:6-7; 1 Thes. 5:18)

6) Be mentored/discipled. (2 Tim. 2:1-2; 1 Thes. 1:4-8; Prov. 27:17)

7) Mentor/disciple others. (2 Tim. 2:1-2; 1 Thes. 1:4-8; Prov. 27:17)

8) Have fellowship with other worshippers of Jesus. Be the Body of Christ! (This includes “loving one another” and “forgiving one another” and the other “one anothers”. See Acts 2:42-47; Heb. 10:25; Eph. 4:11-16; Ecc. 4:9-12.)

9) Bless the unchurched people of your community. (This includes “loving your neighbor as yourself, the second half of the “great commandment” that I mentioned above. See Mt. 5:13-16; Lk. 4:18-19 [cf. Jn. 14:12]; Lk. 10:25-37; Rom. 1:16; Eph. 2:10; Tit. 2:7-8; Jas. 1:27.)

10) Bless the unreached peoples of the world. (Gen. 12:1-3 [cf. Gal. 3:8]; Ps. 67; Mal. 1:11; Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; Rom. 15:18-20)

(1 Chronicles 16:8-36 is a wonderful conjunction of the ten items. Reading that passage is like eating a whole box full of “spiritual Wheaties”!)

The spiritual decathlon. Ten practices of the true Christian without which no one will finish well in the competition called “life.” As I was thinking about the events I was convicted that in one of them, I’m a pretty lousy “spiritual athlete.” How are you doing?

After Jim Thorpe won the decathlon at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912, King Gustav V of Sweden told him, “You, sir, are the world's greatest athlete.” I don’t expect to stand before the King of Creation one day and hear Him say, “You, sir, are the world’s greatest Christian.” But I want to contend for the prize with all my being, in such a way that I will hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” He deserves nothing less than “done well.”

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* I also remember Michael Jordan, because I have always been a huge UNC Tarheel fan!
** Once, my soccer team came in second place in a city-wide tournament, plus I picked up a few second and third place trophies in road races over the years. I even won a couple of bowling tournaments (I am da man!). But I figured, “If that’s the best that Wheaties can do, I’m switchin’ to Cap’n Crunch! At least that cereal actually tastes good and maybe one day I’ll become captain of something!” (That actually worked out a little better for me.)

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I'm João, but you can call me John. Since meeting Christ at age 16, my driving passion has been to glorify Him! I’m a “Great Commission Entrepreneur.” I am passionate about starting and leading anything — mission agencies, churches, businesses — that helps fulfill the Great Commission. I also love to speak, teach, preach and write about God's glory in all areas of life and among all peoples of the world. You can contact me at joao.mordomo@gmail.com; find out more at www.johnmordomo.com; link directly to this blog at www.llvd.net; and follow me on:

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João Mordomo