Recently, world-class athlete Vennesa Vieke asked me what I thought it takes to be a champion. For the next year, she and I spent time together talking about how I had achieved my success. It was fun, going back and sharing my 35-year athletic journey with my new friend. (See her story in Issue 03/2021.)
What I’ve learned is that if you want to be a champion in anything—sports, relationships, careers, ministries, you name it—the principles are the same. If you want victory in your physical, mental, and emotional health, you must apply these principles. But here’s the kicker: mentally agreeing with them won’t get you anywhere. You’ll have to do the hard work, make sacrifices, and persevere daily.
If you want to be a champion for the kingdom of God, you have to use the same principles.
Let’s talk about that phrase, a champion for the kingdom of God. I chose those words deliberately because I’ve realized there are many champions of God who are not actively being champions for God’s kingdom. There is a profound difference.
As believers, we are all champions in God’s eyes. And our champion status isn’t based on what we do. It’s based on the simple fact that we are God’s children. There are no chumps in God’s family, only champions.
Right now, maybe you’re thinking, “No way am I a champion. I’ve never succeeded at anything. You have no idea what I’ve done or what has happened to me. God couldn’t possibly see a champion in me.”
The Bible says otherwise.
If you’ve put your faith and trust in Jesus for salvation, then you are His champion. The blood of Jesus has made you one. Romans 3:25 says, “For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood” (NLT).
While we were still sinners—not after we got it all together and had a champion’s success record—God sent His Son, Jesus, to die for us. Jesus’s blood makes us right in God’s sight (Romans 5:8–9). Because of Jesus, God can’t even see our failures. It’s the work of the cross that makes us His champions, not what we do.
There is nothing we can do to become more of a champion to God. He loves us just as we are for one simple reason: we’re His kids. There are no conditions to our heavenly Father’s love. You can’t earn it, and you can’t lose it. It just is, and it’s everlasting.
There aren’t different degrees of God’s love either. His love doesn’t change. He can’t love you any more than He does right now. And He doesn’t love one person more than He does someone else. This is great and amazing news.
So if we’re already champions, isn’t that all there is? No. Even though God loves us and even though He sees a champion when He looks at us, that doesn’t mean every believer will live the life of a champion. Not every believer will determine to be a champion for God and His kingdom.
I didn’t for a long time.
I was all about championing my kingdom. I was focused on using my gifts and talents for my glory, not His. I didn’t realize there was more to being a Christian than asking Jesus to forgive me of my sins and give me eternal life (John 3:16).
I knew I was supposed to go to church, pray, and read my Bible, but I didn’t understand that God wanted to partner with me in life and use me for His kingdom purposes. I had no idea someone could be a champion for God’s kingdom, and I certainly didn’t know how to be one.
Let’s look at the life of Moses to understand this better. God created Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. God knew Moses was the right person for the job—even after he’d killed a man and had to hide out in the wilderness shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep. (Check out Exodus 1–2.) Does that sound like someone who’s a champion? A wanted man, a murderer, living in obscurity?
Thankfully, when God chooses people to champion His causes, He doesn’t look at their outward appearance, their past, or where they live. He looks at the inner qualities He put in us.
God created Moses to lead. He allowed Moses to have unique and even painful experiences to prepare him for the task. He wanted to journey with Moses to help him develop those leadership qualities.
In Exodus 3–4, we see God inviting His champion to go on this adventure with Him. A voice from a burning bush? You can believe God had Moses’s attention as He began to reveal what He wanted him to do.
God was like, “Moses, I’ve chosen you to champion the cause of My people. I’m going to use you to save them from the Egyptians. I want you to lead them, protect them, and teach them how to live and love Me.”
But Moses couldn’t imagine himself leading anyone. Maybe before, but now? No way. So he began to object.
“Me?” he said. “Appear before Pharaoh? But God—! Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt? What if they don’t believe me? What if they won’t listen to me?”
Even after God promised to be with Moses, even after He gave him instructions and the words to speak and supernatural powers, Moses still refused to accept God’s call. He only saw his limitations: “I–I can’t be Your mouthpiece, God. I st–stutter.”
Do you ever feel like Moses? Do you have trouble seeing yourself as someone God can use? When you think of the word “champion,” do you have difficulty seeing yourself in that category? Or do you see yourself as the least of the least, when God is saying you are a mighty warrior?
Well, I have some good news. God uses the least of the least to champion His causes!
Consider 1 Corinthians 1:27–28: “God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important” (NLT).
Have you ever been called a fool? Worthless? A big fat zero? Have you ever felt despised or rejected? Well, you are who God wants to use.
Your past doesn’t matter; neither do your limitations. All that matters is that you are willing to be used by God. Friend, God is in you, and Christ in you is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
You can face anything and do anything God has called you to do (Philippians 4:13) because God’s Spirit lives in you. The very power of God, the heart of God, the mind of Christ is in you (1 Corinthians 2). His Spirit empowers you to do what He asks you to do. It’s not by your might or power; it’s by His (Zechariah 4:6). You are a champion because God, the greatest Champion of all, lives inside you!
It’s time to start walking with your head held high. I love Leviticus 26:13, where God says to His children: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so you would no longer be their slaves. I broke the yoke of slavery from your neck so you can walk with your heads held high.”
We aren’t to walk in shame or be overcome with guilt. We aren’t to walk burdened down by the weight of sin or the words of others. God sent His Son, Jesus, to die for us. And in doing so, He freed us from the penalty and power of sin. He broke the yoke of bondage.
Now, I am not suggesting that we get all puffed up with pride and become overconfident in our abilities. No. Our confidence is in God and His love for us. God declared our worth when He created us, and He has promised to be with us every day since.
Have you ever thought about the moment you were created? According to Psalm 139, God was at work in your mother’s womb, fashioning and forming you with His very hands. Maybe you think, “God didn’t plan me. I was an accident. I was unwanted, a product of violence.”
There is no life outside of God. He is the Creator, Giver, and Sustainer of life. (See Job 33:4; Acts 17:28; Colossians 1:17; and 1 Corinthians 8:6.) Negative circumstances around your conception or birth do not negate the fact that God created you, He loves you, and that He has a good plan for your life that He wants you to fulfill.
You, no matter who you are, are God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10). He created you on purpose and for a purpose. Your earthly parents might have cursed the day you were born, but God didn’t. He wanted you to be born because He values your life.
Not only that—He took great delight in forming all the delicate parts of your body (Psalm 139:13). God knit you together. You are wonderfully fashioned, and when He looks at you, He smiles. He has precious thoughts toward you that outnumber the grains of sand (Psalm 139:17–18).
You’re His prized possession, worth even the life of His only Son.
It’s hard sometimes to remember that. The world likes to remind us of our shortcomings, as does Satan, the enemy of our soul. But God thinks differently, and it is time we align our thoughts with His. We can’t live the life God intends us to live without doing so.
Let’s do an exercise. Write down the negative words your parents, spouse, children, so-called friends, or coworkers have spoken over you. Write down the negative thoughts you’ve had about yourself too. How many are there? Ten? A hundred? Maybe a thousand?
With a pen, place a dot of ink on your paper to represent each countable thought. When you’re done, compare those dots against all the grains of sand in the world. The sand represents God’s thoughts toward you—His good, precious, innumerable thoughts. Remember Psalm 139? No matter how many negative statements you came up with, there’s no comparison!
Friend, God thinks you are the bomb, and it’s time you realize it. You can’t be the champion He has created you to be if you don’t believe you are champion material. God does not create junk! He doesn’t make mistakes. He created you—you!—on purpose and with a purpose. Why should it matter what other people think or say?
Let’s continue our exercise. Dive into God’s Word and discover His thoughts toward you. Write His words next to the negative ones you listed. For example, if you wrote, “You are a failure,” write next to it, “I am not a failure. I am the righteousness of God.” If you wrote, “You will never amount to anything. You are just like your father.” Write down this truth, “My Father is God Almighty, and I was made in His image. He has great plans for me and will help me accomplish them. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!” Exchange each lie for the truth of God.
Search the Bible daily and renew your mind with God’s thoughts toward you. If you want to know God’s will for your life, you have to renew your mind. Change the way you think about everything, including yourself. As you do, God will transform you into a new person—the champion He created you to be (Romans 12:2).
Capturing negative thoughts, rebuking condemning words (2 Corinthians 10:5), guarding your mouth (Psalm 141:3)—it’s a full-time job. But it’s worth the effort.
KRISTI OVERTON JOHNSON encourages and equips people for victory through her writings, speaking engagements, and prison ministry. To learn more, go to kojministries.org.