I sometimes find myself in conversations discussing the parallels between Christians and sportspeople. The Bible uses this illustration several times, and St Paul was particularly struck by this, so his writings included passages about athletes, boxers and so on. I will briefly mention four of the reasons why sporting illustrations are used so often in scripture. First, one characteristic of a serious sportsperson is their single-minded devotion to their chosen endeavour. We see the positive side of this in commitment to training so as to be the best possible, and the negative side when a gifted player is drawn to other things and so never fulfils their potential.
A second aspect is willingness to experience short term pain for long term gain. God never promises His followers an easy life - far from it - and Jesus spelt out some of the very significant costs of discipleship. But none of these compares with the benefits - Paul calls the troubles (which in his case were life-ending) 'light and momentary' by comparison (see Romans 8 to learn more).
The third thing I'll mention is a disciplined approach to life. The most important half hour of my day is just after breakfast, when I close the door of my study, spending time in prayer and Bible reading. Sometimes it's tempting to get stuck into the specifics of what lies ahead, and it requires discipline not to be distracted by that and to concentrate on what I know is most important, even if there are urgent things clamouring for attention.
Endurance is the last thing I'll mention - keeping going through the ups and downs of life. This is vital - we see this in football with so many decisive goals scored in the last few minutes. The Bible says we should 'run with perseverance the race marked at for us' not giving up however hard things get.