Many wonder how to keep God involved in sports as we play and compete. The Bible offers many parallels between life as a Christian and life in sports. In this post, we will look at the spiritual and athletic components of discipline.
I teach, coach, watch, play and love all things sports. My days and nights revolve around sports. I prepare and plan to teach my students in the mornings. During the day I teach fundamental movements and sportsmanship. In the evenings I coach and somewhere during the day I try to fit in exercise. The weekends offer a schedule that involves exercise, playing sports and watching sports on television.
Daily, I see and live a picture of the gospel in my sports platform. I aim to live out gospel truths so those under my care will hopefully see Christ living in and through me.
For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. – 1 Timothy 4:8
How to Keep God Involved In Sports
Below are three ways that we can keep God involved in sports. They are the parallels between the gospel and sports that apply to all tracks and fields!
#1. Transformed Identity
Christ, now my identity, transformed my outlook on sports when I put my trust in Him as Lord in 2012.
Sports used to be my identity, my idol, my release. Now, it’s my mission to share the love of Christ and lead our youth to find their identity in Christ.
He transformed my understanding of sports as His creation, to be used for His glory. No longer was I able to view sports as my identity and my worth.
We don’t have to give up our sports to love Christ. After all, sports are His creation by His people for His glory. When we place our identity in Him by repenting of our sins, abolishing our idols, and placing faith in Him, sports can take their proper place in demonstrating His goodness to a sports world that often takes a win at any cost approach.
#2. Self-Control In All Things
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. – 1 Corinthians 9:25-27
In Corinth, there was an athletic event called the Isthmian games, which was second in popularity to the Olympics and was hosted every other year. Winners were awarded a “perishable wreath” for their efforts during these games. Paul uses the picture of an imperishable wreath as a reward for the self-control and discipline of an athlete that allowed them to finish at the top of their respective contests.
Athletes go through physical and mental training to be the best at their craft and to achieve a goal.
Similarly, but in the context of preaching the gospel to others, Paul endured physical and mental hardships along his journey. Paul had encounters with beatings, imprisonment, and hunger, to name a few hardships. Yet, amidst the hardships, he continued in the discipline of knowing an imperishable award awaited his self-control; a crown of everlasting life Christ promises us when He returns.
#3. Discipline For Our Good
For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. – Hebrews 12:10-11
Athletes, when self-disciplined in the weight room or in practice habits, discipline themselves for a greater reward than the exhaustive training time. They are preparing for a season in which their bodies need to be equipped and their fundamentals need to be sound so they can compete at the highest level.
A coach may discipline an athlete for their grades by having them miss practice to focus on their school work. Discipline may be in store for the athlete who is constantly committing penalties in the form of that athlete being benched for another player. Painful, but necessary. The athlete may initially not understand the purpose, but the coach is leading them to be the best version of themselves on and off the field, using discipline to yield future fruitfulness.
God operates in a similar fashion with His children. We may not understand the discipline we are receiving. It may be a result of our own sinfulness and decisions or it may be His way of protecting us and conforming us into His image.
God has our sanctification in mind when He disciplines us. Remain faithful during the often hardships and painfulness of discipline, knowing He is using it for our good and His glory.
There are many comparisons between the discipline of the athlete and the discipline of our walk with Christ.
I encourage everyone to allow these parallels to take root in our hearts. As we play, watch or coach, let us not find our identity in our victories or defeats.
May we be so deeply rooted in Christ, that the overflow of our identity being in Him will bring glory to His name as we play, watch and coach sports.