On Rising To The Occasion

In order to perform at the highest level in competition, you have to prepare that way every single day.
— Ben Bergeron, Chasing Excellence

Sports media regularly talks about champions “turning it on”, or “flipping the switch” when the big moment arrives. The way people talk, you’d think the ability to “turn it on” under the bright lights is a special talent only some are born with.

Isn’t turning it on, or up, or whatever you call it, simply performing at a high level when the pressure is highest?

The issue on the table is one of performance, not talent.

Talent, meaning genetic predisposition, isn’t as big a factor as you think. It just isn’t. Besides, there’s nothing you can do about your genetics, so why worry about them?

You can, however, train how you perform. Performance is a training problem, not a talent problem.

In stressful and trying moments you don’t rise to the level of your aspirations; you fall to the level of your preparation.

If you want to shine when the lights are at their brightest, you have to practice it. You can’t afford the luxury of going through the motions. It won’t happen on its own. You have to train with attention to detail. You must train with purpose and drive.

How you train is how you perform. The two are one. You don’t practice one way and then perform differently when the moment comes. Instead, you must work in training the way you want to perform when the time is right.

The Question to Ask During Hard Times

Life is full of uncertain and difficult circumstances. Much of life is moving from one such situation or circumstance to the other without stop or delay.

It is an unrelenting series of events that can be downright discouraging at times.

When those moments come, stop and ask yourself one question: “How does this help me conform to the image of Christ?”

The answer to the big why questions of life find their answer in this idea. If you are a follower of Christ, your destiny is to conform to His image.

But what does it mean to conform to the image of Christ?

To conform to something means:

  1. To make similar in form, nature, or character.

  2. To bring into agreement, correspondence, or harmony.

Conforming to Christ entails becoming more like Him in form, nature, and character. That you would think, feel, and behave like or in harmony with how Christ would in the same circumstance.

Everything that God allows to enter your life focuses on this singular goal, to make you more like Jesus. If something different would do the trick, you would walk that path instead.

To be called according to God’s purpose is to be conformed to the character of Christ. God’s purpose for our suffering is Christlikeness. That is our highest calling. If God answered all our prayers to be delivered from evil and suffering, then he would be delivering us from Christlikeness. But Christlikeness is something to long for, not to be delivered from.
— Randy Alcorn, If God is Good, p.289

Don't ask the Lord to deliver you. Pause and ask for the wisdom and perspective to see how it makes you more like Jesus.

Perspective helps you see beyond the pain of today. It helps you see the glorious outcome, today’s afflictions are producing. It is foolish to avoid the gym because working out is hard and often leaves you gasping for air on the floor. It is an even greater folly to allow the difficult and painful moments of life to consume and distract you from the larger picture of life and eternity.

This practice will help you understand the bigger picture. It will help you see as Malcolm Muggeridge did reflecting on the difficulties of his own life.

Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that at the time seemed especially desolating and painful with particular satisfaction. Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained.
— Malcolm Muggeridge, A Twentieth Century Testimony

Hate The Sin But Love The Sinner

You often hear people say, “Hate the sin but love the sinner.”

It’s a confusing and misunderstood phrase, but right on the money.

It encourages the idea of separating one’s behavior from their identity, something often encouraged in the Scriptures. What you do does not define you. It does not determine who you are.

People get this backwards all the time. They make the assumption that how one behaves is who that person is. And that has disastrous consequences. It ruins relationships, damages hearts, and wrecks lives.

The problem with looking to external behavior is that it sets your sights on the wrong standard. It has you focusing on the wrong things. It leads to spiritual navel-gazing.

The same thing comes into play when dealing with other people. You cannot equate actions and identity. They are separate things.

Your heart should break over someone’s sin. You shouldn’t hate them because they sin, you should wish they hadn’t done such and such, but still hold them accountable for it.

Truly hate the sin. Hate that is wrecks lives, damages relationships, and harms people. Wish badly people didn’t choose that path. Confront them, but not about their behavior directly. Build them up in their identity in Christ instead. Don’t bring them down by focusing on their sin. Build them up by pointing them to who they are in Jesus.

As always, point them to Jesus.