Sports and faith. Why write about that? What’s the connection? Is there a connection?
I know some athletes have displayed their faith, but is there a real connection between the sport they play and the faith they have? Can we relate sports to faith?
I believe they are well-connected, but there’s a major difference, which I’ll get to in a bit.
Sports, no matter the level, are played out in front of a crowd. No sport is played in a vacuum. From stands with parents watching a Little League baseball game to Game 7 of the Major League World Series being watched by thousands in person, as well as millions on TV and the Internet, sports are played out where people can see.
Being a Christian and living our faith is also not done in a vacuum. We have to live our lives in the world, while not being of the world. We’re out there every day, whether at school or work or out running errands, we’re out there. We’re out there and, when people know we’re Christian we are scrutinized just like your hometown athlete who fans pull apart no matter what he does. At least that happens here in New York. What have you done for me lately is a favorite sports fan attitude around these parts!
Athletes have to train to be successful. It takes a lot of work to attain athletic success and to stay at that championship level. Diet, exercise, practice, day in and day out repeating things over and over again. Watching video. Researching your opponent. Analyzing. Planning. There is so much work involved day-to-day, I wonder how much fun someone at the highest level really has.
Let’s be honest, there is also not much “off season” nowadays in professional or even college sports. The season ends and maybe a month or so and the athlete is right back to it getting ready for the next season.
As Christ followers we have to train also. However, our training is reading and studying God’s word. Praying for guidance and help and forgiveness and going out into our community serving the LORD by serving others. And all this is to attain success in our lives which doesn’t look like any trophy, but success for a Christian is leading people to Christ, making them disciples, honoring God with our daily thoughts and actions. That’s success Christian style. To stay there, though, we too must train daily or we’ll become stagnant and ineffective for God. The God who loved us so much He sacrificed His own Son so we could have a restored relationship with Him and eventually go home to be with Him for all eternity. That’s better than any trophy I can think of.
We Christians have no “off season”. There’s no vacation from living your faith, but we do have times where God, in His infinite grace and wisdom, gives us a time of rest. We aren’t always going “through a storm”. As humans we need our rest. Even our LORD Jesus Christ rested, even during storms! We need to recharge and be ready and alert in our lives and rest (physical, emotional and spiritual) helps us immensely.
When any athlete is in a slump, he or she has to work their way out of it. Work harder! More practice! Get the coach to look at the video to see what you’re doing wrong. What needs tweaking? What adjustment needs to be made?
It may sound funny, but Christians can get into “slumps”, it’s called sinning. Paul complained about it in Romans 7 when he talked about doing things he ought not to do and not doing the things he should (my paraphrase). We all go through it at one time or another, but, and this is a HUGE but (this is that major difference I spoke of at the beginning), unlike an athlete who has to work his/her own way out of his/her slump, we have a loving and gracious God, the Creator of the universe, who will help us out of our slump! If we confess our “slump” to Him, He is faithful to FORGIVE us and pull us out of that slump. Talk about getting out of a slump! AND, we can call on Him whenever we are about to “slump” and He will help us get past it even before it starts. I refer you to a promise I pray ALL THE TIME, 1 Corinthians 10:13! He will give us an escape from our slumps. No working it out by our selves. It doesn’t take work to fix it, we only have to go to our Father in heaven in prayer. Is that not amazing! I think it is.
So the next time you’re watching your favorite athlete thinking you’d love to be like him/her, remember, you are just like them except your “game” is life and you’re living it, not for an adoring crowd, but an adoring Father in heaven who knows you by name and wants to help you succeed so that He will be glorified through you and more souls will be added to His family for all eternity!