(Note: A downloadable PDF copy of this lesson is available on the last page.)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12:1-2, NKJV
Now may the God of peace . . . make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.
Hebrews 13:20-21, NKJV
In my high school days we had a basketball coach whom I both appreciated and feared. When he was looking in my direction I always tried to be shooting a basket, which was the strong part of my game. When he walked toward me, however, I knew what was coming.
“Good shot, Brandt,” he would say. “Now let me see you dribble.”
That was the worst part of my game. I hated to dribble, but he forced me to do it. As a result, I became a better player.
STANDARDS OF PERFORMANCE
Every day during the Olympics, we heard and read about the years of sacrifice, hard work, and continuous training to which the athletes subjected themselves. There was daily talk about world record holders. The standard of performance included many comments on perfection: perfect physical condition, perfect weight, perfect skill and performance, perfect attitude, perfect concentration, perfect persistence in the face of competition or adversity, perfect teamwork if it was a team effort.
A few achieved perfection; no one can maintain it. Yet, athletes keep trying.
One heart-warming story that came out of the Olympics was about Jackie Joyner Kersee who competed in the heptathalon, a two-day series of seven events for women. She grew up on Piggot Avenue in St. Louis, across the street from a tavern, down the block from a pool hall, and around the corner from a playground.
“I knew at the age of nine that I could jump,” she recalls. “That’s when I started running and jumping off the porch.”
A fireman’s brigade of siblings used a potato chip bag to “borrow” sand from the playground and install a landing pit off the porch.
Nino Fennoy, a saintly coach of the kind these neighborhoods seem to inspire, steered her through a series of junior Olympic championships and a busy career of basketball and volleyball at Lincoln High. The girls basketball team went 62-2 during her last two years, and Jackie was All-State. She went to U.C.L.A. on a basketball scholarship and was a star performer there, too.
In 1981, Mary, her mother, who was the determined disciplinarian with a willow switch, died at age thirty-eight after a one-day illness. “Her determination,” Jackie says, “passed to me.”
Working under a U.C.L.A. assistant track coach, Bob Kersee, Jackie headed toward the 1984 games. She won a silver medal. She married her coach in 1986 and with his help, she overwhelmed the international field with the only 7,000-point performances (four of them) on record. In 1988, she took the gold medal. Jumping, she says, is like leaping for joy. “I don’t know what it is about that extra second or inch.” She always aches but never minds it. “To ask my body not to ache would be too much,” she says.¹
People helped her reach her goals in spite of the obstacles, but the desire, will, and drive come from her.