I really enjoyed the Olympic games this year. I was on the edge of my seat on so many occasions. Simone Biles, choosing wholeness over possible self-harm do to the twisties. Alyson Felix showing the power of hard work and the pride of motherhood. I loved seeing how the US Women’s Indoor Volleyball Team worked as a true team, stepping up with different players when injury struck. They continued to fight through the tournament to become Gold Medalists.

These moments reminded me of watching Olympic Volleyball during the 2016 Games. Back then I was viewing with a specific purpose. I watched intensely because I was having the privilege to coach my daughter’s fifth-grade volleyball team that year. Ironically, I am a short lady, and I hadn’t played volleyball since Junior High. But our school needed a third coach because a large number of girls wanted to play that year, so I grabbed the opportunity to serve and share the experience with my daughter and her buddies.

I watched every indoor and beach match, I could, whether male or female to try to figure out what would be the keys for our students to have a productive and enjoyable season.

And I prayed, asking God to make the keys to volleyball success obvious and allow me to communicate them to fifth graders well. At some point He gave me some patterns that made sense. The following is what we had to do:

  1. Serve well.
  2. Return well.
  3. And volley as a team.

I spent weeks talking these concepts with our team, over and over. We would repeat them every practice. With support from many other parents, we taught them specific skills. If we served tough, at that level of volleyball the other team wouldn’t be able to easily return the serve and we could score lots of points. In many causes we could “ace” the opposing team, as they couldn’t return the serve at all. But in contrast, if we could return “tough” the serves of our opponents well, then we could keep them from scoring “aces” and potentially score a point if we volleyed the ball as a team. For us, that meant – obviously getting the ball over net in three hits or less – but also knowing who should be doing what and how to place the ball so that we could score points while having fun doing so.

These simple keys helped us have an outstanding season. Despite many twists and turns, we made it to the Championship Game. Though we were underdogs we ended up with the “silver medal” losing by one point in the third set to a team who was a local powerhouse.

This year, God brought my faith to my mind as I watched Volleyball. I kept wondering if there were three simple keys that could help believers grow and develop like our three volleyball priorities helped us. After some prayerful pondering, here are three for your consideration:

  1. Read the Word (your Bible) every day.
  2. Do what it says.
  3. Be regularly integrated into a community of believers.

I think these are even stronger than the ones we used for the fifth-grade season.

Start by reading the Bible every day. The majority of believers who live in the United State are fortunate to have access to the Bible in its entirety. We can easily read or listen to the very Word that God has given to us as His set of instructions and inspiration for a godly life. And because there are so many other voices speaking to us daily from so many vantage points and motivations – we really need to hear from our Creator daily to get “tuned” to His voice. My routine is to read in the morning before I do anything else. I ask the Holy Spirit to help me understand what I am about to read so that the Words can give me life and whatever God wants me to have in that moment. I am a huuuugee fan of the One Year Bible (https://www.tyndale.com/sites/oneyearbible) and use it, but know this might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I would say that each of us has 5-7 minutes that we can take to read at some point in each day. May I suggest beginning in the Gospel of Matthew. Pray and then set the timer on your phone for seven minutes. After you finish, put a bookmark where you ended. Maybe take a moment to ask God what He wants you to carry forward and then you are prayerfully ready for the next task of your day. Pick up the next day where you left off reading so that you can read in context for greater understanding.

(Read through all four Gospels and then the book of Acts and you will have daily connection to the time when Jesus was walking the earth, what he said and did, and also you will learn in Acts about the early church and the move of the Spirit of God in it. If you are ready to read other parts of the Scripture that is fantastic and if you want to stay in the Gospels, there is great benefit to doing so.)

Once we begin to know what the Bible says, we should make it our practice to do what it says. God’s Words give us the information to live lives that are meaningful, productive, and have measures of peace and joy, even in challenging times. And maybe most importantly the Scriptures lead us eternal life, which is the wonderful life that last forever with God, after life on this earth is complete. 

I suspect obeying God’s instructions in the Bible are like when a child obeys a good-godly parent’s instructions. Toddlers, children, teens and young adults, grow and learn as we get rewarded and corrected. We gain self-control and honor the instructions that are set out for our good. By God’s grace we mature into well-functioning people who have lives that we are glad to have. Of course, there are stutter steps and wipe-outs along the way, but these are part of the process. Thankfully we can ask for help from the Holy Spirit, and He will do so, especially when we have a heart and desire for obedience to our Lord.

The last thing is to be actively engaged in a community of believers. Ideally, that is your church home. Or maybe this is more accurately described a small group with the larger church. It could be a Bible study group, your family members or a handful of faith-filled friends who do life together. These communities of believers will help you remain accountable to do the first two things and these relationships are going to give you opportunities to expand in your knowledge and experiences. Importantly, the people in your community of believers will ask you to pray about things and they will pray for you about things. Candidly, some of the encounters with them will likely force you to pray because you may become frustrated or annoyed. Prayer will be a natural outgrowth of being actively engaged in relationship with other believers.

Another great benefit is just the joy of having people to live life with; it is beneficial to be with folks who are headed in the same “heavenly” direction.

For many of us, Autumn is volleyball season for school-based athletics. The next time you see a match, I hope you will cheer for your favorite team and be reminded of the above three keys to growing in Christ that were cultivated from a special silver-medal volleyball season. If you would like additional tools on how to thrive in your life from Christian worldview, please visit https://www.betterdaybetterlife.com