Many college coaches who skirt NCAA rules still get paid lots of money to coach because of the “success” they achieve. Some high school coaches who find ways around eligibility requirements win games and championships, leading others to laud their coaching brilliance. Meanwhile, coaches who refuse to compromise their integrity sometimes lose their jobs because “they don’t win enough.” In the coaching world, at times it can seem like those who knowingly do wrong are rewarded – but when you choose to do the right thing, you’re punished.
In the last part of the “Beatitudes” portion of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus says that his followers can anticipate this happening to them, and when it does it actually reinforces the blessing of living under his reign as our King! “10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. 11 God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way” (Matt. 5:10-12).
When you coach and live for King Jesus, refusing to compromise his ways because you desire to honor him, it’s not going to be a walk in the park. But Jesus leads us to the blessing God has for us in the midst of these challenges as we follow his teaching in this passage:
1. Expect Jesus’ experience. Jesus was persecuted, mocked, lied about, and received evil treatment from those who opposed him because he was uncompromising in doing what is right and speaking what is true. As those committed to following him and his standards of what is right and true, we should not be surprised when we are also opposed. Our persecution will likely not include the intense physical suffering Jesus endured. It may instead involve things like the loss of a coaching position or being slandered by someone antagonistic toward our faith in Christ. In a world in which many don’t want anything to do with Jesus, we can expect to experience what Jesus experienced when we follow him as our King.
2. Respond with joy through trusting Jesus’ promises. Jesus’ directive to be happy and very glad – to rejoice – in the midst of persecution that comes as we follow him may seem counter-intuitive. Yet this joy is possible as we consider the promises Jesus gives to those who experience opposition because of their loyalty to him: “the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs” (v. 10), and “a great reward awaits you in heaven” (v. 12). The amazing, long-term rewards of living for Jesus as our King far outweigh the present pain of persecution. We can trust the promises of Jesus.
In the coaching world and in other areas of life, choosing to do the right thing as directed by Jesus is sometimes rewarded. At other times, though, it brings what feels like punishment. Jesus tells us we can expect persecution for following him in a world often opposed to him. Yet Jesus also promises that with this pain comes great gain – so we can respond with genuine joy.
Coach, when you encounter difficulty because of your devotion to Christ, don’t give up and don’t give in. Instead, let Acts 5 inspire you and encourage you to stay the course. Followers of Jesus in Acts 5 were whipped and jailed because of their devotion to him, yet they responded by “rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus. And every day…they continued to teach and preach this message: ‘Jesus is the Messiah.’”
For reflection: If you’re encountering opposition because of your commitment to Christ, ask the Lord to enable you to continue to trust him and hold onto the joy you have in his promises. If you’re not currently experiencing opposition, ask Jesus to prepare you to be ready to live uncompromisingly for him if persecution comes.