(A Five-Minute Encouraging Encounter)

         (the RZIM magazine cover)

Today, in a noisy-busy Starbucks, I overheard two gentlemen sitting at the next table. I could tell from their conversation they were Christian leaders, so I introduced myself. They turned out to be directors for Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

I asked if they knew of Ravi Zacharias, perhaps the top apologist of our day. They replied, “Oh, yes!” I showed them the cover of one of Ravi’s RZIM magazines, which I had been reading. And it just happened to highlight an article about athletes!

The cover picture depicted a men’s rowing team from the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The teammates, students at the University of Washington, were not recruited with promises of success but with the notion of counting the cost of hard work and endurance.

An Analogy of Courage – The author of the article, Nathan Betts, likened the rowing competition to believers striving to run their Christian race with endurance to win (Heb. 12:1–2). He wrote:

Jesus said to have courage. [For at times] there is pain, darkness, weariness, and the real temptation to give in. Jesus didn’t try to erase this reality. But He answered it with the remarkable thought that somehow the Son of God joins us within it all.¹

As I turned to leave the coffeehouse, one of the FCA leaders handed me his ministry card. The motto on the back read, “The Heart and Soul in Sports,” followed by Colossians 1:10: “Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.”

When I reached my car, I felt a nudge to pray for the two men.

Thank You, Lord, for their stated goal to live fruitful lives for You in sports and in their pursuits of You. Please help them run their unique Christian race with endurance to win. And when their circumstances get rough, remind them that You’re with them in their boat.

The apologetic relevance – Our public lives as Christians can display evidence for the truth of Christianity. Do we, like the FCA guys, honor God in the marketplace by our upright conversations? Do we, like the rowing teammates, remain courageous when tempted to give in? If so, we will naturally testify to others of the reality of the God we serve.

For after Jesus Christ sets captives free at the cross, He never leaves them!

¹ Nathan Betts, “Its Own Reward,” Just Thinking, the magazine of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Vol. 24.4, p. 24 (www.RZIM.org). This article was based on the book The Boys in the Boat (NY: Penguin Books, 2014).