Olympic triathlete speaks to FCA athletes on the importance of an identity in Christ

FCA staff: ‘For anyone struggling with the pressure of having their identity from their sport: you could win today, or you could come in last, and you could not be loved any more or less because that’s how God loves you’

May 11, 2022

KANSAS CITY, Mo.— Many teens are searching for their identity throughout their adolescence. Young people’s identities are shaped by many factors — family, cultural and societal expectations, experiences with institutions like school and the media, and friends. For Christians, however, the Bible makes it clear that identity should be rooted in Christ.

Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA, www.fca.org) has been using sports ministry to reach coaches and athletes with the Gospel for more than 65 years. By connecting with people through sports, FCA helps coaches and athletes learn that their identity is not in their sport, but rather in Christ.

FCA Northland Talent Advancement Coordinator Chris Anderson stated, “Sports are an amazing blessing from the Lord, but they are a really crummy god. When we root our identity in being an athlete, coach or fan, we inevitably begin to worship sports, others or ourselves. This path always leads to frustration, disappointment, and heartache — even if you’re world class. Sports can never truly fulfil our deepest desires to be loved, to belong to the family of God, to have eternal purpose, and to experience supernatural joy and peace. These things only come when our identity is sealed as a follower of Jesus and child of God.”

Triathlete Barb Lindquist knows only too well how easy it can be to find identity in sports alone. Lindquist spent decades competing at the international level both in swimming and triathlon. A swimmer for Stanford University in college and winning a team national title in her sophomore year, Linquist anticipated continued success through athletics.

However, a disappointing race that led to her team failing to secure first place delivered a crushing blow to Lindquist’s plans. “I felt like it was my fault we didn’t come in first,” she said. “It took hold of me, and I didn’t realize how much my identity was wrapped up in sports and contingent on results.”

Out of college and feeling defeated, Lindquist gave up on sports and dove into her local church. Fittingly, the church had just started a study on identity in Christ. “Identity in Christ is Christianity 101, the basic of the Christian message, but I really needed to hear that no matter what I do, God loves me so much He sent Jesus to die on a cross for me,” she shared. “I let it soak in.”

Lindquist’s renewed understanding of her identity as God’s daughter transformed her heart. In the process, God reinstated her desire to compete. A friend was training for a triathlon, and Lindquist signed up too. “I saw God in this step, that He could use a win or loss for His glory,” she said. “He gave me a second chance to do my sport right and a check to say, ‘Make sure your identity is not in your sport but in Me.’ I had lived in fear of failure, and now I was free.”

Lindquist’s new outlook on athletics led her to the 2004 Olympics, placing ninth in Athens. Lindquist was inducted into the Team USA Triathlon Hall of Fame in 2009 and the International Triathlon Hall of Fame in 2017.

Since retiring as an athlete, Lindquist coaches triathletes online, and she connects with FCA Endurance athletes through triathlete races and clinics. This past summer, Lindquist and her husband attended their first FCA Camp at Black Hills in South Dakota as coaches. She shared her testimony after cross country practice and encouraged runners to not misplace their identity.

“For anyone struggling with the pressure of having their identity from their sport: you could win today, or you could come in last, and you could not be loved any more or less because that’s how God loves you,” she said. “He knows how many hairs are on your head, and if you were the only person on earth, He still would have sent His Son to die for you. He loves you so much and wants to have a relationship with you. That is our worth, and I think that takes the pressure off our worth being wrapped up in our sport.

Anderson commented, “Competing is meant to draw us closer to the Lord as we worship Him, not define who we are. For as long as I’ve known Barb, she has understood and lived this out beautifully. Her example on and off the course is an encouragement and inspiration as we get to see what it looks like when an incredibly gifted athlete and coach uses her gifts as they were intended. Barb’s identity is rooted in the Lord and joy pours out of her as she competes and coaches according to her Heavenly calling.”

“What I like about FCA is that they are stepping into the kids’ world, into the sports world, and that builds on a connection that’s already there,” Lindquist shared. “As athletes, we have an underlying understanding already — we know about the sacrifice, the determination, the team, the injury, etc. Add Christ to that, and then we really feel like we have a connection and a sister in Christ and things that bind us.”

To read more about Barb Lindquist’s story and her involvement with FCA, click here.

FCA’s theme for 2022 is Every, based on Ephesians 1:3: “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” FCAreminds Christian coaches and athletes that they already have everything they need in Christ and encourages them to seek Him both on and off the field.

After extensive growth, FCA has reached millions of people with the Gospel. View a timeline of FCA’s 68-year history here, including videos, quotes, articles, leader profiles, Camp themes, photos and more.

Read more about Fellowship of Christian Athletes here, visit FCA’s website at www.fca.org, its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheFCATeam or its Twitter feed https://twitter.com/TheFCATeam.

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