Sports are something that many in our world are involved in. As many as 73 percent of us will play a sport at some point in our lifetime. For many families, these commitments can take up quite a bit of time and thought, which can lead to a negative view of sports in some cases. However, just as sports can have a negative impact, they can also impact your life for the glory of God.
I had the benefit of playing football growing up and into college. The experience changed my life. How? I would argue that it taught me things about the Christian life that I wouldn’t have otherwise learned. Most chiefly: it taught me about worship.
God is the giver of good gifts. Paul tells us in Colossians 1:16-17,
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
If all things have been created by him, through him, and for him, that includes sports, too. And though God created sports, he did not have to! In the same way, he didn’t have to give us taste buds or good tasting food. He could had simply created food as means for survival, but he didn’t. He loved us so much that he gave us the opportunity to enjoy stuff. That is why Paul says, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 13:31).
Sports are a gift that allow us, as image bearers, to reflect God’s glory.
I wish I had fully grasped this while playing football. I didn’t realize what worship through sport was until the game was taken away from me. I endured a few knee injuries, which halted my ability to play the sport I loved—dreaming of division I football ever since I was a child. Football became my idol, and that was something I didn’t realize until the doctor recommended that I hang up the cleats.
When the game I loved was gone, I thought my life as gone too. I’d viewed the gift of sports as something I had earned and deserved rather than a blessing from God. In my bitterness, I viewed God as the punisher.
That is why I am so passionate about helping others have a right view of sports.
If sports are gifts, how do we avoid making them into idols? How do we instead worship God through sport? I think of the basic ways we teach children to receive gifts at Christmas:
1. Recognize the Gift
Treat this as a gift and not something that is earned or deserved. God didn’t have to give us the gift of sports but he did.
2. Thank the Giver
This is an intentional gift. We shouldn’t just tear the paper off the present and go on our way. We should look to see who it is from and give him thanks.
3. Enjoy the Gift
You can thank someone all you want for a gift, but it’s only when you use and enjoy the gift that you truly show your thankfulness. God delights in your enjoyment of a gift—not a mere finger to the sky after a homerun. Sure, your enjoyment might be displayed in an outward gesture, but it can be as simple as having fun and playing to the best of your ability.
If you play a sport, you have an opportunity. Will you open the gift, thank the giver, and enjoy the gift? If you learn how to enjoy God through sports, your view of God will be transformed and the people around you will be able to see worship on display through the game you love.