Preparing to Serve as a Champion of the Lord
By Jeremy C. Holm
Walking into the night’s chill, my breath crystallized in the air. I pulled a helmet onto my head and adjusted the safety strap. With a smile, I turned to my companion…and gave him a fist bump.
“A fist bump?” you ask. Yes, a fist bump. You see, I was not wearing a little black nametag this time. Instead I was sporting a spandex (not very insulated) uniform. There were no well-polished shoes on my feet, either. Just $350 bobsled shoes with 600 tiny spikes on the bottom. And my companion and I were not headed out to go tracting; rather, we were about to race down a mile-long ice-covered track at speeds of over 80 miles an hour.
And we loved every second of it.
Preparing to Serve Like a Champion
A lot goes into prepping for a bobsled race. There’s sled maintenance the night before. On race morning drivers walk the track to inspect the ice and to refresh their minds of each turn. Plus, let’s not forget the months and years of physical preparation that goes into training for the push, the driving and to handle all the G forces we feel on the way down the track.
If you want to be a champion, you have to prepare like one. The root of the word champion comes from the Greek campeonum, which means “to be a victor in a game or challenge, like a sport.” A campeonum can also be “someone who stands up for or speaks for a cause.” By that definition, serving as a Champion of the Lord means we act as campeonums who stand up for and defend His cause which we know is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” We can achieve this through living and teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Are you willing stand before the world as a Champion of the Lord? If so, then as Doctrine and Covenants 4:3 says, “ye are called to the work.”
Called to the Line… I Mean, the Work
In bobsled we know it’s our turn on the track when a voice on the overhead speaker and says, “Team So-and-So to the line.” Similarly, as missionaries we know it is our turn to head to the mission field when that beautiful white envelope arrives from The Office of the First Presidency. When that sacred letter appears, it’s ok to be nervous and excited, but always remember Mark 10:49, which reads, “Be of good comfort…He calleth thee.”
And just like in bobsled, the majority of our preparation needs to happen before the call to the line comes. The Savior wants us to be as ready as possible so that we can be powerful instruments in His hands. That being the case, becoming a Champion of the Lord is a goal that we should work for, pray for and seek to emulate in everything we do, starting today.
After my mission I found myself “called” to be the head coach for the U.S. Adaptive Bobsled Team and I noticed similarities between the Olympic, Paralympic and world-class athletes around me and the missionaries in the scriptures and in the field who achieve the greatest work. Both groups taught me that to be successful you have to learn and apply the winning principles that lead to victory.
To that end, here are three lessons for Gold Medal Missionary Success that will help you obtain a greater level of accomplishment in the field with the Lord’s help.
- Prepare by Knowing Why You’re Going
I compare the Church’s missionary efforts to the Olympic Torch Relay, where one runner carries a lit torch and passes the flame on to the next runner who then passes it to the next. The Olympic flame is originally ignited in Olympia, Greece, using only sunlight. Where does the flame of our faith begin? With the light of the Son of God.
At some point someone shared that fire of faith with you and helped kindle a burning testimony in your heart. It could have been your parents, a Seminary teacher, a youth advisor, or perhaps just a good friend. Are you going to keep that flame all to yourself? Or are you, like an Olympic torch relay runner, going to share it with others so they can benefit from the blessings of the Gospel?
Why do you want to serve a mission? Is it because Mom or Dad wants you to go? Is it because the bishop says you should? Is it because your friends are going? Or is it because you want to bring souls to Christ by sharing the fire of faith? A mission is always a sacred opportunity, but there are desires that will help you be more successful in the field than others. Elders and sisters who enter the field with a focused desire to help people find the Savior’s light are the most effective.
A mission, like a bobsled ride, has plenty of distractions that can weaken our faith and dim our testimony if our desires do not stay focused on Christ. As an athlete, I have had to endure lost races, injuries, financial setbacks, disappointing outcomes, loneliness, fear, opposition and heartache. There were times that I wanted to drop all my bobsled gear in the closet and to walk away. But I didn’t. Over the years I have been asked why, and I have concluded that I could not quit because I loved it.
When you love something, or someone, you will endure any setback and overcome any obstacle for them. I loved bobsled, so I stuck with it. In the Gospel, and especially as a missionary, we continue forward in faith, no matter what the adversities, because we love the Savior.
A missionary’s love for Jesus Christ can sustain him or her through all the hard days, rejection, persecution, and homesickness that come their way. So if you truly desire to serve as a champion of the Lord, you must deepen your relationship with the Savior. Because of this love you will study a little harder, practice the language a bit more, work with the members with patience and testify with courage, all because you love Him.
- Obey the Rules of the Game
Let me tell you about one of my heroes, Eric Liddell who competed in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. Called “The Flying Scotsman,” Eric was a favorite for the 100-meter race, but there was a problem. The race had been scheduled for Sunday, and Eric Liddell was a Christian.
So, does he race on the Sabbath? OR does he forfeit his spot on the Olympic team in the race he was favored to win? What would you do if after training your entire life in a sport you love, you make it to the Olympics only to have to choose between your convictions and an Olympic gold medal?
Eric never hesitated. He withdrew from the 100-meter race and instead entered the 400-meter race where he went on to win the gold and set an Olympic record that stood for 12 years. Eric Liddell was a champion who knew that the only way to win the races that matter in life is to play by the rules.
Eric later traveled to China to serve as a Christian missionary and in 1943, because of World War II Japan invaded and Eric was taken prisoner. Instead of growing discouraged by his predicament, Eric organized games for the kids, taught Bible classes and served wherever he could.
Sadly, Eric died in 1945 in God’s service of malnutrition and a brain tumor. But here is the really powerful part. In 2008, just before the Beijing Summer Olympics began, the Chinese government revealed that Eric could have gone home during a prisoner exchange. Instead, this great missionary gave his seat to a young, pregnant mother so that she and her baby could have a better life.
Eric Liddell is an example of a champion who always played by the rules of the game and the Gospel.
In my mission we had a saying: Cien por ciento obediente, which means “100% obedient.” This phrase was our motto for success, our slogan to unlock the windows of Heaven. The Lord has promised that if we will exercise faith through obedience He will bless us beyond measure. Will you face adversity as a missionary, even if you are 100% obedient? Yes. Will you face rejection, discouragement, illness, fatigue and opposition? Yes; every champion must face and overcome those things in the pursuit of excellence. But even during severe trials, obedient missionaries can exercise tremendous faith because they know that they are worthy of Heaven’s blessings.
Champions of the Lord always choose obedience. You may not always understand the reasons for a mission rule or even a commandment of the Lord, but through humble obedience you can stand firm with the same faith as Moses when he told fearful Israel, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will shew to you to day.”
Obedience always leads towards the victories that really matter in life and in the eternities.
- Serve With Excellence
Whether as an athlete training for the Olympics, a student preparing for a big test or the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, the pathway to excellence is the pathway to accomplishment.
Excellence can be defined as “dedicating and doing your best in a given task or circumstance.” Excellence consists of mastering your attitudes, motivations, efforts, your disposition to learn and perhaps most of all, your willingness to try again if you fall short.
That sounds a bit like the Gospel, doesn’t it? And in the Gospel we place special meaning on the word “dedicate.” We dedicate temples, chapels, our homes, even gravesites. When we dedicate something we make it sacred for a special purpose and that is exactly what you need to do as a missionary. Make your time in the field sacred for a special purpose.
The most successful athletes I know are those who take their natural talents and continually hone their abilities and knowledge with a purpose in mind. They never stop learning, never stop practicing and never stop growing. Do they make mistakes and lose races? Yes. But a champion is not someone who gets it right every time; a champion is someone who always looks for ways to improve. A champion is confident in who they are, but never satisfied until they reach the highest potential of who they may become.
Champion missionaries confidently strive for excellence by giving their best, studying the hardest and exercising faith. They always seek to improve their language skills and open their heart to charity so that they might better love those they are called to serve. They practice the techniques learned in the MTC and from their mission leaders and they continually seek the Spirit’s guidance in their daily labors.
The Lord knows that missionaries come to the field with any number of human weaknesses, but He loves them just the same. As he told Moroni, who was a missionary for much of his life, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble…” Now I’m going to change men to missionaries: “I give unto (missionaries) weaknesses that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all (missionaries) that humble themselves before me; for if (missionaries) humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
Great missionaries, then, develop their talents and gifts through the pursuit of excellence with the Savior’s help. And if you are willing to serve with excellence, the Lord will do wonders through you!
Face Your Starting Line With Courage
When you are called to serve, remember Isaiah 52:7 which says, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!”
During the ancient Olympics, heralds and messengers were sent across Greece to announce that the Games would soon be held. Part of their duty was to proclaim peace, to announce the sacred truce, the ekecheiria, which promoted brotherhood and an end to hostilities between nations and peoples.
In a similar manner, the Lord will send you forth as heralds and messengers on your mission to bring good tidings, to publish peace and salvation and to tell the world “Thy God reigneth!”
The Lord has a great work for you to do and if you will begin right now to prepare to serve as a Champion of the Lord then I promise you that you will find greater joy and happiness. Standing atop the medal’s podium is a wonderful feeling, but there is nothing in the world that matches the feeling of wearing a little black nametag with your name, the Savior’s name and the Church’s name on it. No earthly recognition or honor can compare. So whatever you need to do to prepare to serve as a Champion of the Lord, do it. Whatever sacrifice you have to make will be worth it.
I challenge you to rise up and raise the bar within your own life. Begin right now to prepare to serve with everything you have. Practice these Three Principles of Gold-Medal Missionary Success and with God’s help, you will be able to teach with power and authority and bring souls to Christ.
Godspeed, my friends!
American bobsled athlete Jeremy C. Holm (www.jeremycholm) has spent over half his life in this fast-paced winter sport. He recently released a new audio talk for youth entitled, “Gold Medal Missionaries: Preparing to Serve as a Champion of the Lord. He is also the author of “Fire on Ice: Gospel Lessons Learned Through a Lifetime of Sports” and “The Champion’s Way: 12 Winning Principles for a Gold-medal Life”.
Jeremy is the former head coach for the United States Adaptive Bobsled Team and is the founder of The Athlete Outreach Project, a non-profit that pairs the world’s best athletes with service organizations to better serve the community.
Jeremy is a renowned keynote and motivational speaker and conducts leadership and teamwork seminars and lectures for corporations and groups across the map. He is also a sought after presenter for firesides, school assemblies, public events, expos and tradeshows.
Jeremy served his mission in the San Pedro Sula, Honduras mission and currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah and is a member of the Willow Creek 1st Ward.