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The Confident Girl: Isn't a Slave to Success

The Confident Girl: Isn't a Slave to Success

Written by Alex Sellens

Hey everyone! My name is Alex, and I have been a Christian for 5 years and an
athlete for 13 years. I’ve competed at the international level in the discus throw at
USC (Go Trojans!), and now I compete professionally. For those who don’t know
what discus is, imagine spinning around as fast as you can to throw a weighted, flat,
circular object as far as you can! It seems so irrelevant, but it’s something I enjoy
and have been pretty good at from a young age. Achieving success is what most
people strive for, right? Think about it, all of us have a dream. Maybe your dream is
to be the first woman president, to start your own business, to get a certain number
of views on YouTube, or even something like losing 20 pounds. It’s not wrong to set
earthly goals for ourselves, and it certainly isn’t wrong to achieve them. But as
believers we need to be constantly searching our hearts, making sure we aren’t
becoming prideful. We must ensure we are ultimately valuing the things of eternity
to a much higher degree than we value our own earthly accomplishments. We are
all slaves to something. In Romans 6:16, it says, “Don't you realize that you
become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin,
which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous
living.” Let’s actively choose to be slaves to the Almighty God instead of being
slaves to our own successes. We will always fail ourselves. God will never fail us. As
someone who has been battling the challenges of sin as it pertains to success and
growing in my love for Christ, here are 3 warnings and 3 benefits I have discovered
in the of the pursuit of success.

WARNING: Success can become an idol.
“Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” 1 Corinthians 10:14
Striving for success and wanting to be in the spotlight can easily become all-
consuming addictions. Idols are formed when we spend majority of our time and
energy on worldly things or when our desires and thoughts constantly revolve
around something other than God. There have been several times in my walk with
Christ that I needed to take a step back and reevaluate where my heart was and
whom I was serving. I would catch myself with selfish motivations and an identity
centered around what I accomplished on the field. When introducing myself, it is
easy to identify myself as an athlete before I mention that I’m a Christian.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit has been constantly convicting me of this idolatry and
calling me to repentance. Ultimately, in exposing this weakness, Christ has humbled
me and made me even more aware of my need for forgiveness.


BENEFIT: Working hard to achieve a goal teaches

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They
do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” 1 Corinthians 9:25

Waking up early, showing up to practice on time, and prioritizing workouts before
social activity or entertainment are all ways in which I have conditioned myself to
remain disciplined in my sport. Without the necessary time, effort, and focus, I
would not be able to achieve any success. Sometimes it takes years of hard work to
see any kind of improvement, but it is important that I do not get discouraged and
continue working towards the goal. These same attitudes apply to my walk with
God. I may be in a trial or in a season of dryness, but having the ability to remain
disciplined in my Scripture reading and prayer has been exactly what I’ve needed.
The years of discipline in my sport have helped me be able to carry over the same
habits of discipline in seeking God daily despite the growth (or lack of it) I may feel. I
can constantly check myself and seek ways to improve my holiness and strive for a
life that reflects Jesus. I am grateful that a lifetime of discipline has taught me to
remain steadfast in my pursuit of Christ.

WARNING: Our culture indirectly preaches a prosperity

 “..Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied…” Luke 6:20-26

There are common misconceptions within our culture that if you say the right
prayers, do “good” deeds, or post a Bible verse on Instagram, then God will bring
you success. It’s the whole God-is-like-Santa-Clause idea that He will reward you for
“being good.” Not only is this completely self-glorifying, but this concept promotes
the idea that those who are achieving the most success are the ones who are the
most “godly” and the most blessed. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth. There
are people who may be blameless before God and seeking Him daily but never
achieve any earthly successes. There may be others who are Satan-worshipers,
atheists, murderers, and blasphemers, but win gold medals and Nobel prizes. It’s all
just worldly success, and it is by no means an indicator of who is and is not blessed.
God may choose to bless us in various ways, but not because we have earned
anything. Ultimately, we should be motivated by the desire to have deeper intimacy
with our Heavenly Father, not because of what He can give us or how He can bless
us. The second we start to seek His rewards instead of His presence we have
forgotten what it means to be a Christian. In my world, athletes like to use the verse
Philippians 4:13 (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.) to
convince themselves that if they have God on their side they will win
championships. But when Paul wrote that verse, he was in prison, going through
persecution because of his faith. His point was that God will give you the ability to
get through trials. If you can do “all things through Christ who strengthens you,”
then surely Christ could give you the strength to never achieve success and still
proudly give Him glory. God could grant us all the trials this world has to offer, and
if we are in Christ, we are more blessed than we deserve.

BENEFIT: Being successful gives a platform to evangelize.
“As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20
Having success in my sport has made it so people want to hear what I have to say.
They see me as a standout and want to know the secret to my training or what kind
of mindset I have. I have been interviewed for winning championships and had
opportunities to meet new people at competitions around the world. My goal is to

share my faith every step of the way. As team captain at USC, I was able to hold Bible
study meetings and because I was well-known, athletes would attend. People had
respect for me on the field, so they were willing to listen to what I said about the
Bible. As I have grown in my faith, I have become bolder in giving God the glory for
my successes AND for my failures. Not only do I get to be heard, but I also must
reflect Christ in my actions. Having a platform to evangelize does come with a
responsibility to practice what I preach. The more successful you are, the more you
will be watched, and scrutinized. I need to do my best in showing good
sportsmanship to competitors whether I win or lose. I strive to be selfless and loving
and continually check myself to be sure that all I do is motivated by the desire to
advance the gospel. Being good at something means that if I share the gospel and
live in such a way that reflects Him, there will be people who pay attention and
consider their own need for salvation.
**Additionally, being a part of team-oriented activity no matter what level of success
you end up achieving, still gives you a platform to preach the good news. Being a
part of a community with other people gives you an opportunity to form
relationships, serve others, and get people to notice that there is something different
about you. With relationships and Christ-like example, the door is wide-open for you
to point to Jesus and talk about His saving grace.

WARNING: Success can make it extremely hard to love

“Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever
does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have
not seen.” 1 John 4:20

This is the most painful and shameful pitfall for me to admit. It is more than clear
that the Bible commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. And EVERYONE we
interact with is our neighbor. As someone who is very competitive, it can be
intensely challenging for me to love someone who continues to beat me in
competition. It is difficult for me to mesh the desire to be the best with the desire to
love my neighbor. It is a struggle to love when people are rooting against me. It is

painful to hear rivals gleefully talk about my defeat. There is deep hurt that comes
from knowing that my own teammates and coaches have said hurtful things about
me behind my back. The more success you gain, the more “haters” come out of the
woodworks. It’s just the nature of this fallen, sinful world. Some of my inclinations
to be unloving are because of my own sinful pride, but some of these challenges of
loving others come from being sinned against and genuinely hurt. Though I have
faced these struggles and will continue to face them on this imperfect earth, I am
constantly reminded that I can still choose to love others, despite how I may feel
about them. Love is a choice, an action. We can still choose to be kind, giving, and
encouraging to someone who may lead us to feel pain or anger. Once we can fully
grasp this kind of sacrificial love is when we finally have a small taste of the kind of
love Christ had for us on the cross. We have sinned against God too many times to
count, displayed the worst kind of betrayal, and yet He still chooses to love us.

BENEFIT: All success is not ours but God’s, so praise Him!
 “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful
deeds.” Psalm 9:1

Everything good comes from God, including the fact that achieving a goal you set out
for yourself can be really fun! We get to spend time with people, work hard, see
improvement, get passionate, and celebrate! I feel excitement when I have a great
workout or a far throw. I enjoy reflecting on how my hard work in my sport has
helped me stay fit, allowed me to travel to new places, and build lifelong friends.
Through experiencing this kind of enjoyment, I get another reason to thank God
every single day! I praise Him for giving me so many opportunities to succeed and to
fail. If God had not given me the struggles through my pursuit of success, I may not
have realized that I needed Him or that I need to appreciate the overwhelming grace
He has shown me. Even if I were to wake up tomorrow in bad health and unable to
compete ever again, I would still praise the Lord for all He has taught me through
pursuing success in my sport. After all, each one of our successes is a work of His

So take heart, my sisters! The pursuit of excellence is not a sin, but what we do with our
successes can be a representation of our true beliefs about our God. Work hard, but
for the glory of the Lord and not for the glory of yourself. We are called to be
productive, to work, and to do it with our whole heart for the glory of God. Every
success we have should point to the lens through which we live our lives, Jesus
Christ as our Savior and greatest gift. Soli Deo Gloria.

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