“The Heart of a Champion”
It has been my pleasure to publish this website since March 2009. I have dedicated the site to the memory of my late father, William C. Sexton, as a teaching tool targeted to youth and men’s ministry. I have focused teaching, targeted to young people, in a page I have titled Remembering My Creator. I generally focus the articles in this section, which I now call A Christian’s Voice from Fort Smith, to topics of interest to men who are striving to be spiritual leaders of their families. This month I address those men who are interested in being spiritual champions. I want to speak to those of you who are interested in developing the heart of a champion in your sons and daughters.
There is a book in my library which I purchased while still in high school. I have read it several times, used it as the basis for a Toastmasters speech, and drawn upon it for illustrations in sermons. I would like to share some thoughts from it with you here. In it, Bob Richards, former Olympic pole-vaulter writes, “What it takes to make a champion in the game of athletics is what it takes to make a champion in the game called life…every man needs the heart of a champion. It’s a quality of mind, a mental resolve, an attitude that turns a man beyond the normal and the mediocre to accomplishing great things in all walks of life.” (The Heart of a Champion by Bob Richards, published by Fleming H. Revell Company, May, 1959, pp. 27-28)
Richards opens the book with a chapter he titles “A Philosophy for Winning.” Summarizing the thoughts of this chapter, Mr Richards says there are three secrets to this winning philosophy:
- Dream great dreams and have the will to translate them into reality
- Be inspired by a great goal, cause, or challenge to see yourself for who you can become
- Take God with you
Don’t we all want to win – to be “champions” in life? His association with great athletes lead Mr. Richards to the conclusion that ALL champions display 4 QUALITIES. Please consider those qualities and then allow them to motivate you to accomplish great things in your spiritual life. First, consider that the heart of a champion …
Refuses to Give Up!
Abraham Lincoln, though not an athlete, is an example of one who refused to give up. Born in obscurity and poverty, Old Abe tried unsuccessfully for the senate 4 or 5 times before he finally made it. In business, he failed 3 times and was in debt $1800 when he went to Springfield. But Abraham Lincoln had the heart of a champion and he never gave up. He was elected the 16th President of the United States in 1860 and won re-election in 1864 and has been recognized as one of the greatest of U.S. presidents. His law partner said of him, “His ambition was a little engine that knew no rest.”
This is a principle that I personally struggle with. I am tempted to give up when I encounter an obstacle. If I do not master the new skill or learn the new material after a few attempts I must fight that inner voice that tells me to quit. My wife, a music major, has tried on several occasions to teach me the finer points of tempo, cadence, beat and rhythm. I usually throw up my hands in frustration before I have fully comprehended the concepts.
But Champions NEVER give up. If you and I want to succeed, we must refuse to give up. Also secondly, consider that the heart of a champion …
Dares to Believe the Impossible!
The 14-foot pole vault, the 50-foot shot put, the 4-minte mile; all were thought impossible before they were achieved. In 1951, a year before the Olympic Games in Helsinki Finland, a Russian by the name of Kazantev astounded the world by breaking, by 10 seconds, the world record in the 3,000 meter steeplechase. He solidified his grip on this event by repeating his record-breaking performance. As the ’52 Olympics approached, everyone conceded that no one had a chance of beating the Russian. Everyone, that is, but a young American named Horace Ashenfelter. Horace just determined that he was going to give everything he had and that he was going to WIN that race. Horace stunned even his teammates when he ran a faster time than Kazantev in his preliminary heat. Then in the finals, in a race that changed leads several times, Horace finished ahead of the Russian slashing his record by 3 seconds. Horace had orchestrated the biggest upset of the Olympic Games.
Richards in his book says, “I believe the thing that has made America is the dream in the hearts of scientists like Edison and Franklin, the dream in the hearts of politicians who have been statesmen. It’s the dream in the heart of practically every person who dares to believe the impossible, who believes that no matter what has been done, men will come along to do yet greater things.”
We might not be great scientists or statesmen but we too must see ourselves as what we can become. We must see our POTENTIAL! We limit our success when we live only in the present.
Having refused to give up and dared to believe the impossible, thirdly the heart of a champion …
Keeps Going Even When It Hurts!
Emil Zatopek, in the1952 Olympics, won 3 championships, setting 3 records. In talking with Mr. Richards, Emil talked of the secrets to his winning. He trained 6.5 hrs a day, every day of the year. He told Mr. Richards, “I run until I hurt; that’s when I begin my training program. I’ve learned that if I can just get beyond fatigue, there is a reserve power that I never dreamed I had, and then I go on to run my best races.”
I don’t know about you but I have a tendency to complain and throw a “pity party” when things turn sour for me. How much MORE could I accomplish with the mindset of an Emil Zatopek?
Finally, the heart of a champion …
Gives Everything It Has!
In speaking of this quality Richards observes, “…I’ve seen boys, when they’ve given everything they’ve got physically and mentally, call on something spiritual that carries them to their greatest performance.”
Mr Richards interviewed Parry O’Brien on the night that he went out and shot the put a world’s record 59 feet, ¾ of an inch. Parry told Bob, “You can train your body to a peak of physical perfection… But when you get into that ring you need something just a little extra, something down deep within you that can give you that extra boost you need for world’s-record-breaking performances. I always pray to God, because I’ve found in Him that power that helps me do just that little extra.”
Yes, we must learn how to “bring home the gold,” “to call on everything We’ve got, down to the deepest spiritual reserve in our hearts and souls (adapted from Richards, p44).” I Don’t believe that we should pray to win but I DO believe we should pray for help to give our BEST!
As you go about your day, think on these things. Remember that a champion refuses to give up. He dares to believe the impossible. He keeps on going even when it hurts and he gives everything he has.
Do you exhibit these qualities in your professional and personal life? I challenge you to apply these principles in all areas of your life! Remember, “The way we react to our challenges determines the destiny of our lives, our country and our world.” (Richards, p 121).
There are definite character traits that typify the heart of a champion. In the coming months I would like to consider several of these character traits with you. Click on the link below to see the Topic Schedule for what I have planned for this page over the next few months. Next month we will consider the trait of LEADERSHIP.
Thanks for reading with me dear friends. If there is anything that I can do to assist in your daily walk, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org