I grew up playing competitive sports. Baseball, basketball, track, cross country and even Taekwondo. Numerous times throughout my own experiences playing sports I prayed for help. I asked God to help me be the best athlete on given days. I asked God to bless my teams. I asked God to keep everyone healthy and safe throughout games. I’m probably guilty of asking God to help win a few times as well!
I realize my “silly little prayers” while playing sports growing up probably weren’t God’s top priority. Yet I also BELIEVE He can handle quite a bit! I think about prayer and I’m reminded of what Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 – “Rejoice always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Perhaps my prayers weren’t silly after all. I think anytime we’re talking to God we’re doing something right! Sports got me praying, that’s actually kind of cool to think about.
Last weekend’s big game got me thinking about God and sports. I wonder what God thinks of The Super Bowl? He obviously knows who is going to win before the game happens. I wonder if He decides the outcome in some way, or if He leaves that completely up to the players and coaches? I wonder what God thinks of sports overall? I wonder if He’s a fan? I wonder if He is fond of certain teams or players? The old college football rivalry implied so: catholics verses convicts (Notre Dame vs Miami). Fans certainly make up some doozies!
I started to reflect more on what sports really stand for. A few topics came to mind that sparked belief that God just might love sports too…
Proverbs 27:17 – “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
Community: sports build community. I cannot think of many activities that bring people together more than sports. Ecclesiastes 4:12 reminds us of the importance of sticking together: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Countless bible references display the importance of community. Teams have bonds that are often compared to that of a large family. Fans gather hours before games to brace for an upcoming event, yet also to SPEND TIME TOGETHER. Team sports are rooted in community. Even golf displays community (one of my favorite sports), as tour professionals are a tight knit group from what I’ve been told. I imagine God loves sports for one reason: His children are brought together in a myriad of ways, and we are designed to sharpen one another. How about the story in the movie Remember the Titans? Talk about bringing people together in a tough circumstance! I can’t see how that wasn’t God’s work!
Matthew 5: 15-16 – “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Glorifying God: I think sports can be a phenomenal platform to glorify God. I immediately think of Tim Tebow kneeling in the end zone. I think of Steph Curry pointing toward heaven after every made three point shot. I think of Patrick Mahomes taking a knee and bowing his head right before the start of last week’s game. I think these guys are lamps on a stand. They’re pursuing their dreams with tenacious fire, yet have the humility and gratitude to glorify God along the way! These are the athletes I like cheering for. We also don’t need to be famous athletes to be a light. Whether we’re coaching a Tee-ball team or playing in the NBA, we have an opportunity to glorify God and use the platform as our ministry. This isn’t just a sports thing either, glorifying God is a daily act of gratitude and humility regardless of ones’ endeavors. We can all be lamps on stands! Sports are simply more in the limelight than most careers. Sports are also a platform where it’s easy to marvel at human talent. Yet we cannot forget we wouldn’t have the talent without our Creator’s hand.
Matthew 18:3 – “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.“
Full disclosure, I think this verse is a lot deeper than the high level analogy I’m going to use regarding sports. Why do most of us play sports when we’re kids, yet somewhere along the way we stop? Perhaps we lose our joy for the game. Perhaps school work or other interests get in the way. Perhaps we believed someone saying a horrible thing like “you’re just not good enough.” Sports are supposed to be fun. Whether you’re playing, watching, coaching, or simply having a “water cooler conversation” in the office- it’s FUN. I do believe we have an aspect of chasing joy that matters in life. I’ve written countless times that I believe JOY is divine. I could argue sports have a lot of divine characteristics, including an element of fun that we’re missing throughout most days. Invite everyone to a company softball game and watch the fun and relaxation bring smiles to faces! Life is full of pressure and sports can serve as a form of childlike play. I like to think God enjoys watching us have fun and sports serve this purpose. We can feel like kids again if we would just get outside and play!
Sports run deep for me. I think of sports and I think of words like HONOR, COMMITMENT, LEGACY, DRIVE, PASSION, TEAM, COACH, SPIRITED, EFFORT, MOTIVATION, HUMILITY, COURAGE, LOVE, LEARNING, FAMILY, IMPROVEMENT, COMMUNITY and so many more. I cannot fathom a life without sports. I cannot fathom a life without the smile of a child who is finally able to stand on a pair of ice skates as they learn via youth hockey. I cannot imagine life without the smile of that child’s dad who is watching. I cannot imagine my life without those days after school when my dad would practice baseball with me. Those days were some of my favorites. I cannot imagine many better platforms for ministry to truly take place. Each and every person can probably remember a time when sports directly impacted their lives in a positive way. Perhaps an encouraging word from a former coach. Perhaps a teammate turning into a life long friend. Perhaps it was a way to overcome adversity. Perhaps sports were an escape from a troubled home. Perhaps sports are simply a reason to gather with loved ones. Regardless, sports can be a positive addition to life while serving as a platform for God’s work.
I say if you’re gonna play: Honor God. Be Humble. Serve Others. Be a lamp on a stand.
Sports spread love. Sports bring joy. Sports create community. Sports serve. Sports are divine. I like to think God loves sports. What do you think?
Find me on Instagram: @Surrender_Project