Nelson Cook the founder of Coaches of Influence (COIN) in Los Angeles has been ministering to athletes and coaches for forty years and has hosted me on many occasions and invited me to address athlete and coaches' meetings and various men's functions.
Initiating his athlete ministry with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Dallas Texas, where I first was introduced to Nelson Cook on one of my first US Study Tours on Sports Mission, he relocated to Los Angeles twenty years ago to establish a highly specialist ministry to Christian coaches – professional, college and high schools.
Nelson Cook sends a regular devotional letter to his coaches and I have regularly reprinted these in this daily Christian Today column.
The race of life
"If you want to be perfect," Jesus said to him, "go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me." When the young man heard that command, he went away grieving, because he had many possessions. Matthew chapter 19 verses 21-22
It was my freshman year of high school, and I decided to try cross-country running. The only problems were my seven-minute miles and the thirty extra pounds that chased me everywhere I ran.
If I were going to be competitive in this sport, it was going to take everything I had. Riding my bike to practice and then riding home after practice only to pass out in my parents' kitchen became my morning routine for the entire summer vacation.
Two months later, after knocking two minutes off of my mile time and all thirty of those extra pounds off of my body, it was time for my first race. At the first mile marker I was in the front half of the pack. By the second marker I was feeling sick, but I was edging toward the front. By the third marker I was sweating profusely, choking down my breakfast, and my body was ready to quit.
With the finish line in my sight, there was nothing that could stop me from winning the race. I had to cross! I never saw the last 15 yards of the race, but according to my coaches and team-mates I made it far enough to pass out over the finish line.
I placed in the top 10 in that race, and though I would go on to race in the regional competition that season my greatest race was the one where I left it all out on the field. That first race was where I learned how to win.
In Matthew 19, the young man essentially asked Jesus, "How do I win in life?" Jesus responded to the young man by instructing him to, "Give up all your possessions and follow Me." Jesus was outlining what was and still is the cost of becoming a disciple and victor in the race of life.
Questions for coaches
What do you think it means to "leave it on the field" for Christ?
What might Jesus be asking you to give up to live wholeheartedly for Him?
What would it cost you to leave it all on the field for Christ?
How much courage would it take for you to do it?
Nelson Cook challenges his coaches who have an inordinate influence in the US culture of their young athletes, these life questions, not to frighten them as not to be able to measure-up to such ideals, rather to a world view.
This world view places Christ first. It is an unadulterated search into the inner heart as where their own lives are challenged as followers of Jesus, moreover what import they have on their young elite athletes.
Nelson closes with a prayer - God, "show me areas in my life that I have not yet surrendered. I don't want to miss the opportunity to follow You because I'm unwilling to let go of possessions in my life. I want to leave it all on the field for You. Amen"
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.