Daily Bread in Sports and Life

BY PETER DAHL

Live one day at a time. Plan for the long-term, but the best-laid plans can be laid to ruin if we fail to do the right things every day. Instead, live life with daily diligence, an ethic or lifestyle that, for this article, I will call epiousios, the Greek word for “daily bread.”

I have been learning this in my own meditations in the recent months, and I made the serious connection to sports when the Miami Heat, after trading for Goran Dragic, saw their plans fall through when doctors discovered Chris Bosh had blood clots in his lungs. It turns out that the sobering truths of epiousios are ubiquitous in sports.

The Philadelphia 76ers’ plan is entirely based on their long-term potential, but if they don’t do the right things every day, no amount of losing for lottery picks will ever work. They still have to get the right players and staff, and work diligently to improve the young talent they have to mold them into successful NBA players.

Derrick Rose, one of many star athletes to suffer serious injuries this year (including St. Norbert’s own Katie Vanden Avond and David Jacobson), said months ago that he was managing recovery from his previous injuries with life after basketball in mind. Yet, even with these plans, he suffered another season-ending injury.

In sports and in the rest of life, reckless hope and optimism are well and good, but contrary to what orphan Annie tells you, the sun might not come out tomorrow. Your relationship might not get better, you might be even poorer than you are now and your point guard might tear his ACL. Maybe tomorrow will be better. But, just as easily, it could be worse.

With this in mind, do the things you need to do to make yourself better every day. Anyone who ignores today with the hope of a better tomorrow is bound to suffer. You shouldn’t slog through a day, a week, a year, a college career or an entry level job while banking all your happiness into what will happen down the road. Will your life get better after you get the big promotion and move out of your cubicle? Maybe, but you might also break your leg, total your car or discover blood clots.

In my own life, faith in Jesus Christ is critical to epiousios, and as I learn its truths I find that its value is too often ignored by other Christians.

The Bible is a tremendous tool for understanding the keys to epiousios. The Lord’s Prayer includes the petition, “Give us each day our daily bread,” and Jesus says in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” He also says in Matthew 6:34, “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

The Apostle Paul writes that, even though we should “Look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen,” we can thrive each day because through Christ “our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). James 4:13-14 teaches us not to boast in long-term plans in such a short life: “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.”

Jeremiah 17:8 compares a follower of the Lord to “a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The consistent, daily life makes us well-rooted trees that can withstand tomorrow’s trials and tribulations.

I think these lessons can be applied, in some form, to non-Christians, as the lessons of the Bible are applicable to anyone, and by no means am I saying that one must subscribe to my religion in order to adhere to epiousios. Confucianism emphasizes ritual in daily life that eventually forms attitudes of living focused on harmony. Five daily prayers constitute a pillar of Islam. Meditative, reflective people all over the world have found the value of daily living.

So don’t ever say, “I just need to get through this day/week/season/class/month/job/year.” Rather, live each day in a manner that will produce endurance, character and hope.

Esoteric sports translation: If you’re the 76ers, don’t sacrifice Nerlens Noel today for Dario Saric tomorrow.

Bible verses from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV).

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2 thoughts on “Daily Bread in Sports and Life

  1. […] What this means is that living a purpose-driven life is tricky when you haven’t reached a place that seems to fit your idea of a “purpose.” I don’t think what I’m doing right now is my ultimate purpose – rather, I tend to think of “God’s plan for me” as being where I will be in, say, ten years. Then I will be doing God’s work, then I’ll be using my education to make the world a better place and glorify God. But that’s not a particularly comfortable or useful way to think. Because God has a purpose for me now, and tomorrow, and next week, just as much as ten and twenty years from now. But believe me – I wish I was doing what I’ll be doing in ten years now. That’s the work I want to do today. This attitude makes it easy to punt away spiritual work, going days at a time with little thought for God. But I’ve learned over the past couple years that ignoring daily excellence is one of the worst things a person can do (I wrote about this last year and you can follow up on that later if you wish, here). […]

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