Athletes Bible Study | Laying It On The Line

Would Jesus have played football?

NFL Quarterback Jon Kitna thinks so. And he says that Jesus would have played with intensity: “Jesus would have been the most intense guy! He would have knocked people down, but then He would have helped them up and would have probably given them some Scripture along with it to encourage them.”

While some may scoff at Kitna’s assertion, he is emboldened by passages in the Bible that encourage believers in Christ to live with a paradoxical combination of singular focus and reckless abandon.

“There’s a right way and a wrong way to play the game,” Kitna says. “You just try to play it the right way – within the rules, and within the biblical confines of how you’re supposed to approach your craft. So as a quarterback, I think that’s the best way to lead.”

Perhaps that’s why Kitna has never been accused of being soft because of his faith. One of the things that he wants people to see is that he fulfills his role on the team by displaying a steadfast attitude of excellence that reflects the character of Christ. This means doing his best to be excellent during times of preparation and competition. The last thing he wants is for nonbelievers to see him as flaky and lacking in substance.

“You know, I think a lot of times as Christians we want to say, ‘Well, God will handle it,'” Kitna says. “Yeah, God does make things happen. But He also relies on us to handle what we can handle. He gives us abilities, and we have to do what our job is here on earth. And takes care of the circumstances we can’t control. He takes care of those things.”

Here are some of the verses that are important to Kitna as he lives out his faith in Christ.

Read John 12:32-36 (HCSB)
32 As for Me [says Jesus], if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all ⌊people⌋ to Myself.” 33 He said this to signify what kind of death He was about to die. 34 Then the crowd replied to Him, “We have heard from the scripture that the Messiah will remain forever. So how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?” 35 Jesus answered, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light.” Jesus said this, then went away and hid from them.

  • What does Jesus mean by saying “If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to Myself”?
  • What does being “sons of light” have to do with living a life of excellence in athletics and in other areas of your life?

Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (HCSB)
7 … Therefore so that I would not exalt myself, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to torment me so I would not exalt myself. 8 Concerning this, I pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away from me. 9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. 10 So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, catastrophes, persecutions, and in pressures, because of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

  • What are some possible explanations for the “thorn in the flesh” that the writer of 1 Corinthians (Paul) is talking about in this passage of Scripture?
  • Can you share a weakness that you consistently have been faced with in your pursuit of excellence?

Read 1 Peter 5:6-7 (HCSB)
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.

  • Why do you think humility is required before God can “exalt you in due time”?
  • What are some ways that you have been humbled in your life?
  • Can you describe when a time when a humbling situation gave you an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ with someone?

As a football player, John Kitna lays it all on the line. He says this requires spiritual accountability.

  • Who are some people you rely on for accountability as an athlete?
  • Who are some people you rely on for spiritual accountability?
  • How does that accountability help you give your all, as an athlete and as a person?

PRAYER: “Heavenly Father, strengthen me to do my best for you. Keep my attitude humble. Help me to overcome ‘thorns in the flesh’ in my life. Let me shine as a light for you.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 11, “Laying It On The Line,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Athletes Bible Study | Making a Mark

Kay Yow was the head women’s basketball coach for the North Carolina State Wolfpack from 1975-2009. During that time, she led her teams to more than 700 victories and 20 trips to the NCAA tournament. She was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2002.

Her journey to faith in Christ began when a young lady named Lori Moore from Campus Crusade for Christ asked to come speak to Yow’s basketball team after a practice. Moore presented the gospel to the team, and one person trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior that day – Coach Kay Yow. Soon after, Yow got connected to a local Bible-teaching church, was baptized, and began living for Christ.

Yow coached the USA Women’s Basketball team to a gold medal in the 1988 Olympics, even though she had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987. She battled cancer more than 20 years. She was presented with the inaugural FCA Kay Yow Heart of a Coach Award in 2008 by Fellowship of Christian Athletes for a lifetime of living for Christ as a person and a coach. She died in January 2009.

During her career, Yow rarely kept track of her accomplishments, and she didn’t let cancer keep her from living a life that glorified God. She was determined to make every moment count. She always keyed in on the word “attitude,” believing that to be the secret to being successful.

She said, “I love to study Jesus’ attitude in all of the situations that He faced and how He responded and how He dealt with things. That’s the exciting part for me – to not just try to understand excellence in the field of sports, but in a life guided by Jesus’ example. He was an example for what it takes to have excellence. And to me, excellence is all about glorifying God.”

Two of the questions that she would ask herself were:

  1. “What am I doing today?”
  2. “What mark am I making today?”

She wanted to make a mark on other people’s lives, to inspire them to be their best and encourage them to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There are many verses that guided her as a person and as a coach. We can learn much from these verses.

Read Titus 2:6-8 (HCSB)
6 In the same way, encourage the young men to be self-controlled 7 in everything. Make yourself an example of good works with integrity and dignity in your teaching. 8 Your message is to be sound beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be ashamed, having nothing bad to say about us.

  • How can a lifestyle of excellence set an example for others?
  • Describe a time when someone taught you about excellence by their actions.
  • Describe a time when you were able to teach others about excellence through your actions.

Read Proverbs 3:12 (HCSB)
12 for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in.

Read Revelation 3:19 (HCSB)
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent.

  • How important do you think good character and integrity are in leading others to excellence?
  • How easy or difficult is it for you to receive correction, whether it’s from a coach, a parent, an employer, or a friend?

Read Luke 6:39-40 (HCSB)
39 He also told them a parable: “Can the blind guide the blind? Won’t they both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

  • Have you ever been under the leadership of someone who didn’t seem to know what he or she was doing?
  • What challenges did that scenario create?

Read Luke 6:43-45 (HCSB)
43 “A good tree doesn’t produce bad fruit; on the other hand, a bad tree doesn’t produce good fruit. 44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs aren’t gathered from thornbushes, or grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.

  • What do we learn from the parable of the tree and its fruit?
  • Can you give an example of how a person speaks “from the overflow of the heart”?
  • In what ways can you make sure that the words you speak and your actions bring forth good and not evil?

Prayer: “Lord, help me to realize that I am making a mark on people’s lives every day. Help me to live a godly example before them. Help me to make a mark on their lives that is greater than sport. Help me to influence them for eternity.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 10, “Making a Mark,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes

No Pain, No Gain

Chris Byrd is a former Heavyweight Boxing Champion. Although he lives in Las Vegas, NV, aka “Sin City,” he doesn’t allow the sinfulness of his city to consume him.

He says, “For me, I put Christ first. I still do the same things I’ve always done. I stay home when I’m training so I can be in church and not in some secluded place. I want to live my life like I live every day. I’m a boring guy. I don’t do anything. I don’t know what happens in Vegas. I don’t know anything about this city.”

Boxers are among the most disciplined athletes, and Byrd is certainly no exception. Even though he lives in Vegas, he has somehow managed to shield himself from the worldly distractions. His ability to stay focused has been a work in progress that dates back to his early days growing up in Flint, Michigan.

Byrd’s parents are part of his boxing team. His father is his trainer, and his mother is often seen in his corner on fight night. He began amateur boxing at the age of 10, and by the age of 23 he had racked up 275 amateur wins and had claimed three US amateur titles. As a middleweight, he won the silver medal a the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona and won the gold medal at the 1992 Canada Cup.

Everything seemed perfect in his life at that time. He was married to his high-school sweetheart, and was a proud father. But the one key ingredient that he lacked was a relationship with God. When his wife began taking their daughter to church, Byrd began to take notice. Then, when his wife later gave her heart to Christ, his interest was really piqued – although not necessarily in a positive way.

He says, “She got saved and I was like, ‘Wow, what’s that? I’m not going in that direction because I don’t want to be like that.’ My brother and sister-in-law had gotten saved five years earlier, and I thought they were strange, so I didn’t want to be like that.”

As his wife and daughter continued their spiritual walk, Byrd quickly started to feel left out. Finally, he started to tag along with them and eventually had a miraculous change of heart. He says, “I went a few weeks and really wasn’t listening. But one week I listened, and God just convicted my heart so bad. I truly understood why Christ died for me. I walked that aisle [of the church, to talk with one of the pastors], and someone led me to the Lord.”

By then, Byrd was embarking on his professional boxing career, and he desired to compete in the heavyweight division. He was so convinced that this move was part of God’s plan, the prayed for supernatural intervention. He told the Lord in prayer, “If I can be a heavyweight,  I will be a witness for You. I won’t forget about You. It’s going to be all about You.”

God answered his prayer, and in April 2000 he defeated Vitali Klitschko in Berlin, Germany for the WBO title. He lost that title six months later, but in December 2002 he claimed the IBF title by defeating Evander Holyfield.

But the Lord taught him a lesson in humility vs pride in a fight in September 2003. He was battling Fres Oquendo, and although he won the fight by a decision of the judges, it was very controversial. Many people thought he lost the fight. He was embarrassed, humbled, and put into his place. He said he learned the hard truth found in Proverbs 16:18.

Later, he eventually lost his IBF title. But he still found ways to use his platform as a heavyweight boxer to share God’s love with others. Even through his losses, his demeanor and strong moral character made a lasting impression on the fans and the boxing world.

Read Proverbs 16:18 (HCSB)
18 Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.

  • What do you learn from this verse?
  • How would you apply this verse to your life?

Read 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 (HCSB)
25 Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a crown that will fade away, but we a crown that will never fade away. 26 Therefore I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. 27 Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

  • What does v 26 mean?
  • How do you think purpose works together with discipline?
  • Is it possible for your discipline to ultimately have little meaning? Why do you say so?

Read Romans 6:12-13 (HCSB)
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, so that you obey its desires. 13 And do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God, and all the parts of yourselves to God as weapons for righteousness.

  • What are some things that challenge your physical discipline?
  • What methods do you use to overcome those challenges?
  • What are some things that challenge your spiritual discipline?

Read Luke 12:48 (HCSB)
48 … Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.

  • What are some things that are required of you as an athlete, and/or in every other area of responsibility that you have?
  • As your level of responsibility increases, how does that impact the decisions you make?

Prayer: “Lord, help me to remember that you have given me the abilities that I have. Help me to be disciplined in every area of my life. And help me to use the platform you have given me to be a witness for you every day of my life.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 9, “No Pain, No Gain,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Going The Distance

Olympic Marathon Runner Ryan Hall grew up in Christian home, but even though his parents did their best to instill godly values into his life, Ryan admits that he was heading the wrong way spiritually. As a teenager while pursuing sports such as baseball, basketball and football, he was involved in a lifestyle that found him in the middle of the cool crowd and an increasingly active party scene.

He says, “We were young, so we weren’t into drinking and drugs, but it was heading that direction. But when I started [long distance] running, my lifestyle changed a lot. I lost a lot of those friends. So I was around a whole different group of people. That put me out of the cool group. I remember just feeling a void at that point and a little bit lonely. Socially I wasn’t fitting in anymore. I was kind of struggling with that. Jesus really became my best friend at that point. When I was feeling that void, I would go to Him for that relationship that I was looking for and that was the real beginning of my walk with Christ – and it’s been growing ever since.”

Hall excelled through the years in long-distance running. He won championships at the high school and college levels. He made the Olympic Team and finished in tenth place in the marathon at the Beijing Olympics, a remarkable accomplishment.

Throughout his career, Hall has found inspiration in a friendship with legendary runner Jim Ryun and his family. He is also a big fan of Scottish Olympian Eric Liddell, whose story was told in the film Chariots of Fire. Some of Hall’s favorite verses are listed below.

Read 2 Chronicles 16:9 (HCSB)
9 For the eyes of Yahweh roam throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His. You have been foolish in this matter. Therefore, you will have wars from now on.”

  • When God’s eyes fall on you, what do you think He sees in your heart?
  • How would finding your identity in Christ change your motives for excellence?

Read Philippians 4:12-13 (HCSB)
12 I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret ⌊of being content⌋—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13 I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.

  • How does an attitude of contentment give strength to those striving for excellence?
  • How do you think verse 12 relates to the inspirational truth found in verse 13?

Read Leviticus 25:2-4 (HCSB)
2 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When you enter the land I am giving you, the land will observe a Sabbath to the Lord. 3 You may sow your field for six years, and you may prune your vineyard and gather its produce for six years. 4 But there will be a Sabbath of complete rest for the land in the seventh year, a Sabbath to the Lord: you are not to sow your field or prune your vineyard.

  • How can this passage in Leviticus apply to both our physical and spiritual training?
  • When did a time of rest allow you to push forward and be successful in competition?

Read Proverbs 24:16 (HCSB)
16 Though a righteous man falls seven times, he will get up, but the wicked will stumble into ruin.

  • Hall believes that the key to endurance is not getting emotionally down after making a mistake. How does this passage in Proverbs inspire you to never give up?
  • Describe a time when you stumbled or failed but chose to continue. Where did you find the courage to do so?

Hall says, “Before all of my big races, I like to watch the movie The Passion of the Christ, because that’s the amazing picture of how Christ endured so much for us. I think about His motivation and what it must have been like for Him to endure the type of pain for that long of a time. It makes me feel that what I do isn’t that big of a deal in comparison. I think about His motivation and how He was thinking about other people. Sometimes I can be a very selfish runner, so I try to think about others more when I’m running. That helps me to endure more than I could endure if I was just doing it for myself. So obviously I think about the Lord when I’m out there running. I think about Him taking that cross up to Calvary. I think about other people who I love. I think about my wife when I’m out there running. I think about the kids in Africa who we’re helping through World Vision. Thinking about doing things for others rather than making a selfish endeavor really brings so much more meaning to my running and helps me to endure through those tough times. The Bible says that Christ endured the cross for the joy set before Him. There’s a prize waiting for us at the end that we can fix our eyes on. It will allow us to endure things that we never thought we could possibly go through.”

  • Take a few moments to think about Hall’s words.
  • What do you think about what he says?

Prayer: “Lord, help me to endure. Help me to remember that you are always watching over me. Help me to stay focused on your path for my life, and even when I fall, help me to get back up and continue to walk – even run – with you!”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 8, “Going the Distance,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Lasting Legacies

NASCAR legend Richard Petty and his son Kyle have been racing cars for decades. And Richard’s father, Lee Petty, was one of the pioneers in the sport.

Richard is known as The King by his colleagues because of his accomplishments on the racetrack. In his 35-year career, he ran 1184 races and claimed a record 200 wins, seven Daytona 500 victories and seven NASCAR Cup titles, a feat that only the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. managed to equal.

Richard’s commitment to excellence is demonstrated by his straightforward and simple philosophy of life. He says, “When you get up in the morning, you ask, ‘Can I do a little better than I did yesterday?’ That’s the challenge of not just staying the same. Can we make our business a little better? Can we help somebody today who we didn’t help yesterday? It’s just life.”

Richard and Kyle Petty are big supporters of Motor Racing Outreach, which provides a weekly chapel service each Sunday morning at the site of each race, plus other chaplaincy ministries throughout the week.

Kyle Petty has wisely taken the advice found in Job 8:8-9.

Read Job 8:8-9 (HCSB)
8 For ask the previous generation, and pay attention to what their fathers discovered, 9 since we were ⌊born only⌋ yesterday and know nothing. Our days on earth are but a shadow.

  • How often do you ask for advice from others?
  • As you strive for excellence, what can you gain by following the admonition found in Job 8:8-9?
  • How has paying attention to the “previous generation” taught you valuable lessons about athletics or life in general?

Read Proverbs 13:22 (HCSB)
22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his grandchildren, but the sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.

  • What are some examples of “an inheritance” that someone could leave to his or her children and grandchildren?
  • What kind of inheritance or treasure (whether physical or spiritual) do you hope to leave those who follow in your footsteps?

Read Psalm 61:5-8 (HCSB)

5 God, You have heard my vows; You have given a heritage to those who fear Your name. 6 Add days to the king’s life; may his years span many generations. 7 May he sit enthroned before God forever; appoint faithful love and truth to guard him. 8 Then I will continually sing of Your name, fulfilling my vows day by day.

  • What does David suggest are some key elements to a godly legacy?
  • What are some of the blessings that accompany that kind of lifestyle?
  • How does having the wrong focus (worrying about what others think of you) hinder your legacy?

PRAYER: “Heavenly Father, thank you for the godly example of friends and family that I have. Help me to pass along that legacy to those who come behind me by my example of faith in Jesus Christ daily.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 7, “Lasting Legacies,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Raising The Standard

Chris Klein has been an All-Star in college and in Major League Soccer. But two career-threatening knee injuries, one to his right ACL in 2001 and one to his left ACL in 2004 turned out to be blessings in disguise. After both injuries, the surgeries and rehab to follow, and successful comebacks to the MLS earned him Comeback Player of the Year honors.

But the blessings that he found in the midst of difficulty were more than MLS awards.

Chris says, “Right after that first knee injury, I had a peace in knowing that God had a plan for me. That allowed me to put the work into my rehab and come back from the injury and be a better soccer player. With those two injuries, I´ve had more of an opportunity to speak about my faith than anything else I´ve done on the field my entire career. I look back on those injuries and wouldn´t trade them.”

  • Describe a time in your life when a difficult time was really a blessing in disguise
  • How have difficulties given you opportunities to talk about your faith in Christ with others, either groups of people or individuals?

Chris says his soccer career is about “competing as hard as he can for God´s glory.” One of the verses that is important to him is Romans 12:1.

Romans 12:1 — Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.

  • How does the philosophy of competing for God´s glory line up with athletes today?
  • What is most challenging about living out the principles found in Romans 12:1?

An Audience of One

Chris says, “I look at singers who praise Jesus when they sing, and that´s just the ultimate act of worship to me. I don´t sing very well, but I do play soccer. So I have that idea of offering this sacrifice to Him each game that I play. He gave me this talent, and for me to offer it back up to Him is my way of worshiping. I certainly love listening to music but being able to express myself and to glorify Him on the field can become my sacrifice.” One of the Scriptures that inspires Chris in this way is Colossians 3:23-24.

Colossians 3:23-24 — Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord—you serve the Lord Christ.

  • How does this passage reinforce Chris´ idea of playing for an audience of One?
  • Is playing for God´s approval as opposed to man´s approval more or less stressful? Why do you say so?

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12.

Finally then, brothers, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received from us how you must walk and please God—as you are doing—do so even more. 2 For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

3 For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, 4 so that each of you knows how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don’t know God. 6 This means one must not transgress against and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you. 7 For God has not called us to impurity, but to sanctification. 8 Therefore, the person who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who also gives you His Holy Spirit.

9 About brotherly love: you don’t need me to write you because you yourselves are taught by God to love one another. 10 In fact, you are doing this toward all the brothers in the entire region of Macedonia. But we encourage you, brothers, to do so even more, 11 to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, 12 so that you may walk properly in the presence of outsiders and not be dependent on anyone.

  • What are some ways that the apostle Paul encourages us to raise the standard of excellence in these verses?
  • How can living by a high standard of morality and righteousness  bring glory to God through your life?

Prayer: “Dear Heavenly Father, help me to practice, compete and live every moment of my life in a way that glorifies you. AMEN.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 6, “Raising the Standard,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes


Five Resolutions

This time of year, everyone makes resolutions – things they resolve to do in the coming year. Let me suggest to you five resolutions from a short passage in the Bible – James 1:19-21 – that will transform your relationships with others and your relationship to God.

Hard to Keep?

First, let’s start by asking you: what are some of the resolutions you have made in the past and had a hard time keeping? Why?

Were there any resolutions you made that you kept over time? What were they? And why were you able to keep them?

The book of a James is an extremely practical book of the Bible, revealing important principles for life. In James 1:19-21, there are at least five principles to live your life by. These principles are listed below in the form of resolutions. Read each principle and respond to the statements and questions below.

Read James 1:19-21 (HCSB)
19 My dearly loved brothers, understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, 20 for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and evil, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save you.

1. Resolved: Be quick to hear. (James 1:19)

  • Listening well is extremely important. What are some challenges to listening well others?
  • Do you listen well to others? Why or why not?

Read Proverbs 12:15 (HCSB)
15 A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.

  • What does this verse teach about listening?

Read Proverbs 18:13 (HCSB)
13 The one who gives an answer before he listens— this is foolishness and disgrace for him.

  • What does this verse teach about listening?

What is one thing you will do to “be quick to hear”?

2. Resolved: Be slow to speak. (James 1:19)

  • Being slow to speak has nothing to do with the pace of your speech, but everything to do with pausing to think before you speak. Is this a challenge for you? Why/why not?

Read Proverbs 10:19 (HCSB)
19 When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise.

  • What does this verse teach us about our words?

Read Proverbs 17:27-28 (HCSB)
27 The intelligent person restrains his words, and one who keeps a cool head is a man of understanding. 28 Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent, discerning when he seals his lips.

  • What do these verses teach us about speaking and remaining silent?

What is one thing you will do to “be slow to speak”?

3. Resolved: Be slow to anger. (James 1:19-20

  • What are some things that cause you to get angry quickly? Why
  • As a follower of Christ, why is it important to show self-control, being slow to become angry?

Read Proverbs 15:1 (HCSB)
1 A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.

  • What do this verse teaches you about controlling anger?

Read Galatians 5:22-23 (HCSB)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

  • Which aspects of the fruit of the Spirit relate to controlling your anger?

What is one thing you will do to “be slow to anger”?

4. Resolved: Rid yourself of moral filth. (James 1:21)

  • Describe the biggest challenges to ridding yourself of moral filth.

Read Romans 13:11-14 (HCSB)
11 Besides this, knowing the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near, so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk with decency, as in the daylight: not in carousing and drunkenness; not in sexual impurity and promiscuity; not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.

  • What are some deeds of “darkness” that a Christian should discard from their life?

Ephesians 4:17-5:5 (HCSB)
17 Therefore, I say this and testify in the Lord: You should no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their thoughts. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts. 19 They became callous and gave themselves over to promiscuity for the practice of every kind of impurity with a desire for more and more.

20 But that is not how you learned about the Messiah, 21 assuming you heard about Him and were taught by Him, because the truth is in Jesus. 22 You took off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires; 23 you are being renewed in the spirit of your minds; 24 you put on the new self, the one created according to God’s ⌊likeness⌋ in righteousness and purity of the truth.

25 Since you put away lying, Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. 26 Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and don’t give the Devil an opportunity. 28 The thief must no longer steal. Instead, he must do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need. 29 No foul language is to come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. 30 And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit. You were sealed by Him for the day of redemption. 31 All bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander must be removed from you, along with all malice. 32 And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.

1 Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. 2 And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. 3 But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. 4 Coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks. 5 For know and recognize this: Every sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God.

  • What aspects of your “old self” should you get rid of as you walk with Christ?

Moral filth tries to stick to us all of the time. The flesh, the world and the devil war against the Spirit of Christ that lives in you. Sometimes places we go, people that influence us, websites we visit, media that we read, watch or listen to, and more can cause moral filth to stick to us.

  • Do you need you make any changes in any of these areas?

What is one thing you will do to “rid yourself of moral filth?

5. Resolved: Receive the implanted word. (James 1:21)

The word of God guides us. Jesus is the Word made flesh. Christ is in you, believer, and that is the hope of glory! Let God’s word that has been implanted in you guide you in every way.

Read John 17:17 (HCSB)
17 Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.

  • What will sanctify you?
  • What is truth?

Read Psalm 119:105 (HCSB)
105 Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light on my path.

  • What does this verse mean?

What is one thing you will do to “receive the implanted word”?

“Do Not Be Afraid,” says the Lord. “I Have Big Plans for You.”

What does God say to Joshua in the Old Testament, and Mary and the shepherds in the New Testament, and is still true for us today?

“Do not be afraid.”

And when the Lord says, “Do not be afraid,” He continues on by telling each person what are the big plans He has for them. They then have a choice to believe in Him, obey Him, and receive some incredible blessings; or, they can reject what He says to them, not believe, not obey, and miss the amazing blessings.

Let’s look at three passages, and determine:

  • Who is God talking to
  • Why God says, “Do not be afraid” to them
  • What big plans God has for them
  • How they respond to God’s Word

Joshua 1:6-9 (HCSB)
6 “Be strong and courageous, for you will distribute the land I swore to their fathers to give them as an inheritance. 7 Above all, be strong and very courageous to carefully observe the whole instruction My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or the left, so that you will have success wherever you go. 8 This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do. 9 Haven’t I commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

  • Who is God talking to
  • Why God says, “Do not be afraid” to them
  • What big plans God has for them
  • How they respond to God’s Word

Luke 1:26-33 (HCSB)
26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And ⌊the angel⌋ came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30 Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

  • Who is God talking to
  • Why God says, “Do not be afraid” to them
  • What big plans God has for them
  • How they respond to God’s Word

Luke 2:8-20 (HCSB)
8 In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

13 Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: 14 Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!

15 When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. 17 After seeing ⌊them⌋, they reported the message they were told about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
19 But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.

  • Who is God talking to
  • Why God says, “Do not be afraid” to them
  • What big plans God has for them
  • How they respond to God’s Word

Big Plans

Joshua was chosen by God to lead the people into the Promised Land. Mary was chosen by God to give birth to the Savior. The shepherds were chosen by God to be the first eyewitnesses of the birth of the Christ child.

Each of the people chosen by God would have no doubt experienced a crisis of belief that required them to respond with faith and obedience.

  • Did they pass the test?
  • What do you learn from them?
  • How can you follow their example?

Put It Into Practice

  • What is one thing you will do this week to apply these verses of Scripture to your life?

A Simple Prayer: “Dear God, I believe that You have big plans for me. Help me to listen to your instructions, and to not be afraid. Help me to overcome all my fears by trusting in You. Give me the strength to walk in obedience and to experience the blessings you have for me.”

Mary Should Be Honored, But Not Worshiped

The young woman chosen by the Lord to give birth to the Savior was no doubt a faith-filled, humble servant of God. But the Bible is quite clear even by her own testimony that she is not to be worshiped. Only God is to be worshiped. We worship the triune God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

Let’s take a look at Luke chapter 1 to see some amazing things. As you read the chapter, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is the hero of this chapter of the Bible?
  • What is one verse in this chapter that sums up the entire chapter?
  • What can we learn from the people in this chapter?

Read Luke 1:1-80 (HCSB)
1 Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. 3 It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest of Abijah’s division named Zechariah. His wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both were righteous in God’s sight, living without blame according to all the commands and requirements of the Lord. 7 But they had no children because Elizabeth could not conceive, and both of them were well along in years.

8When his division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 it happened that he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 At the hour of incense the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 An angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and overcome with fear.

13 But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 There will be joy and delight for you, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord and will never drink wine or beer. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb. 16 He will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to make ready for the Lord a prepared people.

18 “How can I know this?” Zechariah asked the angel. “For I am an old man, and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and tell you this good news. 20 Now listen! You will become silent and unable to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, amazed that he stayed so long in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them. Then they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept making signs to them and remained speechless. 23 When the days of his ministry were completed, he went back home.

24 After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived and kept herself in seclusion for five months. She said, 25 “The Lord has done this for me. He has looked with favor in these days to take away my disgrace among the people.”

26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And ⌊the angel⌋ came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be.

30 Then the angel told her: Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.

34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man?”

35 The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”

38 “I am the Lord’s slave,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

39 In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah 40 where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she exclaimed with a loud cry: “You are the most blessed of women, and your child will be blessed! 43 How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me! 45 She who has believed is blessed because what was spoken to her by the Lord will be fulfilled!”

46 And Mary said: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, 47 and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior, 48 because He has looked with favor on the humble condition of His slave. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and His name is holy. 50 His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. 51 He has done a mighty deed with His arm; He has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; 52 He has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. 53 He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. 54 He has helped His servant Israel, mindful of His mercy, 55 just as He spoke to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants forever.

56 And Mary stayed with her about three months; then she returned to her home.

57 Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she had a son. 58 Then her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her His great mercy, and they rejoiced with her. 59 When they came to circumcise the child on the eighth day, they were going to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But his mother responded, “No! He will be called John.” 61 Then they said to her, “None of your relatives has that name.” 62 So they motioned to his father to find out what he wanted him to be called. 63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote: HIS NAME IS JOHN. And they were all amazed.

64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue ⌊set free⌋, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 Fear came on all those who lived around them, and all these things were being talked about throughout the hill country of Judea.
66 All who heard about ⌊him⌋ took ⌊it⌋ to heart, saying, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the Lord’s hand was with him.

67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 68 Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and provided redemption for His people. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, 70 just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets in ancient times; 71 salvation from our enemies and from the clutches of those who hate us. 72 He has dealt mercifully with our fathers and remembered His holy covenant— 73 the oath that He swore to our father Abraham. He has given us the privilege, 74 since we have been rescued from our enemies’ clutches, to serve Him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness in His presence all our days. 76 And child, you will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare His ways, 77 to give His people knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins. 78 Because of our God’s merciful compassion, the Dawn from on high will visit us 79 to shine on those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

80 The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.


Let’s revisit the questions we asked earlier:

  • Who is the hero of this chapter of the Bible? Even a casual reading of the chapter will illuminate the fact that Mary is not the hero of this story – God is! She is an important person of course, but God is the one who blesses Zechariah and Elizabeth with a baby, as well as chooses Mary to be the mother of Jesus. Many people focus the attention in this chapter on the events surrounding Mary and her words. But even her words clearly indicate the God is her Savior. She is not a perfect person; she is a faithful, humble, obedient servant of the Lord. But she was in need of salvation just like every other person except Jesus, the one who was born to be the Savior of the world, of all those who would trust in Him.
  • What is one verse in this chapter that sums up the entire chapter? The sentence that sums up the entire chapter of the book of Luke says, “Nothing is impossible with God.” That is what Christmas is all about. It is celebrating the birth of the Savior, the one who came to reconcile people to God. Even if a person is far, far away from God, guess what? Nothing is impossible with God. He can forgive all sin. He wants to be your Savior. That’s why He sent His Son, born of a woman, born to save us from our sins. Re-read Luke 1:37.
  • What can we learn from the people in this chapter? I want to leave this one for you for your personal study. Take a look at three people in this story – Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary. What do we learn from each of them about faith and obedience to God? You may need to re-read the chapter.

PUT IT INTO PRACTICE: What one thing (or more) will you do to apply the truths of this Bible study to your life?

A SIMPLE PRAYER: “Lord, help me to realize that nothing is impossible with You. Because of this reality, you can do anything through me that you choose to do. Help me to believe that, and help me to follow you in faith and obedience. AMEN.”

Pushing Through

Jean Driscoll was born in 1966 with a condition known as spina bifida. She grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and in those days there was not much technology nor were there many sports opportunities for people with physical challenges. Although she had wanted to fit in and be parts of sports teams as a child and teenager, she was not physically able.

And then a bicycle accident during her freshman year at high school led to multiple surgeries to repair her damaged hips and related injuries. Driscoll says, “It was a really long year. I remember praying over and over again… that I would be like everybody else. I just wanted to blend in. I hated sticking out.”

None of the surgeries worked and now came the inevitable: first crutches, and then the dreaded wheelchair.

Is God Picking On Me?

“I was so made at God because I thought that He was picking on me,” Driscoll says. “First, I was born with this disability and I was constantly teased, and then I had all these painful surgeries. I’ve got foot-long scars over both hips. None of those surgeries worked, and doctors are supposed to be able to fix everything. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t fix my body. It was a really hard time.”

  • What are some personal challenges or physical limitations that you have dealt with?
  • Did you ever feel like giving up?
  • What was it that gave you the strength to fight through those times?

Open Doors

Driscoll had no idea that God would use the wheelchair and her disability to open doors to some incredible and unimaginable places:

  • First, in high school she began playing wheelchair soccer.
  • Then she played wheelchair ice hockey, football, soccer, tennis and basketball.
  • In college, at the University of Illinois, she added track and road racing to her collegiate repertoire.
  • Her college track and field coach challenged her to compete in marathons.
  • She placed second in the Chicago Marathon.
  • Then she competed in the 1990 Boston Marathon, where she not only won the race but she broke the world record.
  • She ultimately won eight (8) Boston Marathons.
  • She competed in the Olympics Games in 1988, 1992, 1996 & 2000, winning five gold medals, three silver medals and four bronze medals.

Why Isn’t God Mad At My Siblings?

Driscoll says that in her early years that her understanding of God was skewed  by tragedy and tumult. “I always felt like I was being punished because God was a big, mad God and if you did things wrong, He was going to get you,” Driscoll says. “My question was, Why is He only calling me out? Why isn’t He ever mad at my siblings?”

A New Beginning

Driscoll was invited to a Bible study and challenged to trust in Jesus Christ as her Lord & Savior. After a period of time, she surrendered her heart and life to Jesus Christ.

She says, “All of those early years when I was being picked on [by her peers] and I thought that God was picking on me, I was so tired of being picked on. Then I realized that I had been picked out. I had been picked out to do things that God only created me to do. I was working so hard to blend in and be like everybody else, and He kept pulling me out and showing me that I wasn’t like everybody else. My life was not meant to blend in, but it was meant to stand out. That just blew me away — and it still does.”

Read Romans 12:12
12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.

  • Why would a person need to “rejoice in hope”?
  • What does it mean to “be patient in affliction”?
  • What is the value of being “persistent in prayer”?

Mentally Tough

Driscoll says that her disability helped her to develop mental toughness.

  • What does mental toughness mean to you?
  • Do you consider yourself mentally tough?
  • If so, what has helped you develop that quality?

Impacting Africa

Driscoll has had the opportunity to coach wheelchair athletes from Africa in the past few years. Had she not been faced with the challenges she was faced with – and persevered! – she would not have had that opportunity.

  • How have you seen God open up doors of opportunity for you through your successes or difficulties?
  • How do you want your life to impact others athletically and spiritually?

Read John 17:4
4 I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do.

  • In what ways did Jesus persevere in order to bring glory to God?
  • What are some ways you can glorify God through your perseverance?

A Simple Prayer: “Lord, take all of me and use me for your glory. Take my abilities and my limitations. Let me do my very best, and let me point people to faith in you.”


Adapted from Excellence: True Champions Pursue Greatness In All Areas Of Life, Chapter 5, “Pushing Through,” produced by Fellowship of Christian Athletes.