Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"I'm Tired, Coach!"

Sunday's Message: LOOK!
Text: II Kings 6:8-23
Message Audio: Click HERE

On Sunday we explored how small groups help you "look", how living in community, sharing life with other Christians helps you see God in ways you cannot see him on your own. In this post, I want to take the concept of community one step further, from small group to coach.


At the age of 10, my oldest son obsessed over NBC's The Biggest Loser. He would go into panic mode if he thought he might miss a particular evening's episode (You guessed it, we didn't and still don't have DVR. I know...Rednecks!). One night we were at a car dealership closing the deal on a mini-van (we had just totaled our other van) when my oldest realized we wouldn't be home in time for The Biggest Loser..."It's the end of the world as we know...or you would have thought." (Yep, just threw out an REM reference!)

He loved it because of the stories and the transformations that took place in the lives of the contestants. If you have not seen The Biggest Loser, it is a competition between 15 morbidly obese individuals to lose the most weight over a five month period. Most of the contestants have tried every diet on the market: Adkins, Daniel, Weight Watchers, Nutri System, Slim Fast, Special K...but have been unsuccessful. And yet these contestants, who battle weight issues for most of their life, get on The Biggest Loser and experience dramatic weight loss. What's the difference? The difference is a personal trainer, or a coach.  Bob Harber, Jillian Michaels, and Dolvett Quince each take a team and coach them through healthy lifestyle changes that lead to weight loss and physical fitness. The contestants succeed where they failed before because of the advice, encouragement and experience of a fitness coach.

This principle stands true in most of life. You want to take your tennis game to the next level? Hire a coach. You want to grow your finances? Hire a financial planner (money coach). You want to move from being healthy to being fit? Hire a personal trainer (fitness coach). You want to eat healthier? Hire a nutritionist (food coach). If coaching can help us achieve things we cannot achieve on our own, then why don't we do that with our spiritual lives? Why don't we seek a spiritual coach, someone who has more experience, someone who radiates Jesus, someone who could teach and encourage us in our spiritual walk?

Coach Elijah

Elijah was one of the stud prophets of the Old Testament. He miraculously multiplied food, parted rivers, took on 450 prophets of Baal in a fire competition (and won), and raised a kid from the dead.  Oh yeah, one more thing, he was taken to heaven in a whirlwind. Like I said, a stud! Who would want to take the baton from Elijah? Who could measure up to his phenomenal ministry? It seems the next prophet was doomed to weep in Elijah's long shadow. So...who was the poor soul? Elisha!

But Elisha was anything but a let down. He healed leprosy, commanded bears to obedience, purified water, conquered an army without raising a sword, and raised the dead. Elisha succeeded for the same reason Elijah did: God empowered him! Not all Old Testament prophets were in step with God and his will but it is clear that Elisha was. I believe part of Elisha's success was due to Elijah's coaching. God prompted Elijah to appoint Elisha as his replacement, but before Elisha ever set out on his own, he spent time at Elijah's feet. He learned from Coach Elijah:

So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him. 20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”
“Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant(I Kings 19:9-21)

Spiritual Coach

Discipleship (following Jesus) is a process of becoming the person God designed you to be, of becoming more like Jesus, of aligning your wants with God's wants. It is a journey. The same principle that applies to The Biggest Loser and your tennis game applies to your spiritual life. Coaches can help you grow in ways you cannot grow on you own! If you are in the business of following Jesus let me encourage you to elevate your game by seeking a spiritual coach.  Here are a few guidelines in seeking a spiritual coach.
  • What is Spiritual Coaching? Spiritual coaching involves inviting a spiritually mature individual into a relationship that intentionally focuses on your spiritual development.
  • How do I seek a Spiritual Coach? 
    • Pray for God to guide you to the right person.
    • Spiritual coaches do not have to be ministers or seminary professors. In most cases, if you work outside the church, a coach who also works outside the church will be of greater benefit to you.
    • Seek a coach of the same gender. 
    • Observe Christians around you. Keep your eyes open for an individual who models Jesus, whose life bears the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control).
    • Pay attention to the regard others have for this individual. Are they respected at their place of employment? Do others turn to them for advice? Are they involved in the life of the church?
    • Once you identify an individual, ask them if they would pray about being your spiritual coach. Most coaches, worth their salt, will hesitate to accept because they do not see themselves in such a light.  
  • What does Spiritual Coaching look like?
    • Practically it begins with weekly or bi-monthly conversations over a meal or cup of coffee. With time the relationship will take on a life of its own.
    • If the person accepts your invitation, give it a trial phase. Do not force the relationship.  If the relationship does not mesh, give each other permission to dissolve the spiritual coaching experiment at any time.
If you set out on this endeavor, I pray God will use your Spiritual Coach to make you more like Jesus, and to help you experience The Abundant Life.

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