Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney was interviewed on a Sports Spectrum podcast shortly before the recent NFL draft. When asked about the qualities that would make Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence the top draft pick, Coach Swinney spoke of Lawrence’s skills, athleticism, experience, and mental toughness. But he said there’s something even more significant about Trevor Lawrence: he’s faith-driven. Coach Swinney put it this way: “He’s an inside-out kid.”
That’s a great description of what Jesus desires for each of us who have surrendered our life in faith to him – that we would live from the inside out. What does it mean to live inside out? Instead of external factors like others’ opinions or cultural pressures determining our perspectives, choices, and actions, the transforming work of Jesus Christ at the core of who we are drives how we think, speak, and live. How do we cultivate inside-out living, including in how we coach and compete? The Bible points to a number of important factors for living inside out. We’ll explore several of these in the next few devotions.
Here’s the first crucial element: connection. To live inside out, we must stay connected to Jesus Christ. In John 15:4-5, Jesus says, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.”
To “remain” in Christ is to stay vitally connected to him. If we fail to stay connected to Jesus, we won’t produce the fruit for which God created us. We’ll be like a branch severed from the vine, unable to receive the life-giving and fruit-empowering nutrients only the vine can give. Our coaching and life may seem successful in the world’s eyes, but in reality very few results of God-honoring, eternal value will happen through us. Jesus is blunt: “apart from me you can do nothing” – nothing of lasting worth that glorifies God.
How do we instead stay vitally connected to Christ? Consider what is needed to build strong relational connections, whether it’s with a spouse or friends, or with players or fellow coaches. It requires time together, communication, and a genuine desire to learn about them and grow closer to them. It takes the intentionality needed to prioritize the development of a strong, growing relationship.
Jesus desires this relational connection with us. He’s made it possible through his life, his death on the cross for our sins, and his victorious resurrection. When we respond to Jesus and what he’s done for us with faith, we enter into this relationship with him. Christ is present with us, communicating to us, and doing his work to transform us at the core of our being. But to rest in his presence, to listen well to him, and to fully respond to his work requires that we spend time with him: reading God’s Word, communicating through prayer, desiring to learn and grow closer to him.
This ongoing, vital connection to Jesus the Vine is essential to living and coaching from the inside out. This connection strengthens your faith and empowers you to follow Christ rather than giving in to temptations and pressures. Coach, prioritize your relationship with Jesus Christ. Be an inside-out coach.
For reflection: On a spectrum from “vitally connected” to “rarely spend time with him,” how would you characterize where your relationship with Christ is currently? What is one step you can take to cultivate deeper connection with him? Commit this to the Lord and trust him to help you take this step.