"Winning isn't everything; it's the only thing."
Real Joy - Ashley Null
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Real Joy, John Ashley Null, Haenssler, Holzgerlingen, Germany, 2004 ISBN: 3-7751-3966-4"The truth is, God and sports not only can go together, they need to go together".
So says Josh Davies in the foreword. In fact, Josh's phenomenal account of his experience in the 2000 Olympics is worth the price of the book alone!
The argument of the book put simply is that real joy can be attained only through understanding who you are, as the person God made you. "When you put your heart and soul into sport, you don't expect it to lead to total burnout" and "the purpose of this book is to help you avoid that kind of disappointment". (Page 6)
The book gives an excellent account of the pressure to be a winner. "Sport may give you an impressive identity, but you are forced to put that identity on the line every time you step up to the starting line. A bad performance at an important event can easily turn a hero into a has-been in the eyes of the crowd". (Page 8)
"The longer sports stars continue to drive themselves to be the very best while relying on destructive habits to cope with the consequences, the greater the likelihood that their instability off the field will catch up with them, either through adverse publicity or by undermining their athletic performance. If given enough time, eventually their addiction to the downward spiral will destroy their sporting career and their capacity to have a decent life afterwards". (Page 19-20)
There is a helpful summary of the devil's strategy
Step 1 He tries to plant a negative attitude in you
Step 2 The force of destruction makes you doubt that God loves you
Step 3 The force undermines your self-esteem for who you are now
Step 4 The force of destruction convinces you to work for your self-worth
Step 5 The force lies to you that success brings lasting satisfaction
Step 6 The enemy's force of destruction makes you his slave. (Pages 33-38).
Having identified the problem, the author sets out some solutions. I found Chapter 4, "The saving work of Jesus Christ", as clear - and as simple - an explanation of this key doctrine as I have read. Chapter 6, "The road to Joy", is a compelling. evangelistic treatise for a sportsperson.
Ashley also gives us a helpful apologetic for Hell in sporting terms: "But if the player never quite gets with the program, there will come a point when, for the good of the rest of the team, the coach will be forced to cut him from the roster. God is in a similar situation with humanity. A loving, all-powerful Creator cannot permit human beings to misuse their gifts and hurt one another indefinitely. There must come a point when he says, 'No more!' A loving, all-powerful God must eventually separate those who rebel against his rules. Otherwise, those who follow the rules will never be able to live in peace and joy with God and each other". (Page 58)
The book - hardback with many photos - is in a format which makes it easy to give to a sportsperson - whether believing or seeking. A book to read and to give to others.