The God of Sports
Posted by Jim Grieme
Over the past several years there have been many sports stars who proclaim their faith through a publicly exhibited bent knee on the court or in the end zone. The reaction has been fairly mixed; some appreciate their courage and commitment to demonstrate their beliefs so openly. Others may feel offended or merely disdainful of such a frivolous display. Yet one thing is certain: the discussion over the inclusion of God in sports is far from over.
I have been playing tennis for almost thirty-five years now—you would think in this amount of time I would actually be rather good, but some goals are continually elusive! There are many reasons for why I choose to play tennis. I love the game, its angles, strategy and the camaraderie enjoyed by those who play. Since I’m insulin dependent diabetic, the exercise is extremely beneficial for my overall health, but more than anything, I just enjoy the game.
As with any sport, tennis can be rather frustrating. The majority of this frustration stems from too little time, even less practice, an almost total lack of natural talent and the fact I will never be paid to play! One of the guys on my ALTA team has a habit of saying, “Can I get you anything? A drink? A snack? Some lessons?” Some people just have the gift of encouragement!
Over the years I have heard sportscasters almost sneer as they have made comments like, “I really doubt God cares about football (insert any sport here).” Others, trying to attach the implied exclusiveness of Christianity may observe, “God certainly doesn’t have a favorite team!”
As a believer and follower of Christ, I find myself in an ongoing conversation with Him about every aspect of my life. I sometimes speak with Him “under my breath,” thank Him for not letting me hit the parked car that I barely missed, and while on the tennis court, I even ask Him to help me make a particular shot. There is virtually nothing we do not talk about.
Now I can state with absolute certainty the Bible does not contain any doctrines regarding sports. So for those who have always believed as much, congratulations on your keen insight! What the Bible makes crystal clear is this: God most likely cares little for sports, but he does care very much for those who are His children.
I have uttered numerous prayers to the Father regarding a particular shot or allowing me the ability to return an extremely well-placed serve; and I can say God does not always grant me my request.
So is God apathetic toward my plight? Is He more interested in watching my frustration rise or the other team win? Could it be when I am on the tennis court my prayers are nullified since I am not in church, expanding His kingdom or ministering to the needy?
Some people feel they must be exceptionally demonstrative with their faith by the outward demonstration of faith’s existence; this is where fist-pumps heavenward, kneeling in the end-zone and any other overtly Christian demonstration may be witnessed. Are any of these wrong or “over-the-top?” They could be, but the Lord has not given me the ability, or the right, to judge the motivation of another. About the only reasonable thing an observer can do is to continue to observe and see if the demonstrable is really a “proof of life.”
I believe there are times when the most appropriate action we can take to demonstrate our faith is a silent prayer to make a shot, kick the field goal or net the basket. Our faith is not a series of quasi-annoying demonstrations of our faith while we are in the spotlight. True faith experiences life all the while realizing it is God who grants the ability to live and to play.
Our culture is enamored with the spotlight and Warhol’s “fifteen minutes of fame.” It is better to pray and live rather than to live and forget to pray. If our desire is to give God the glory—and for Him to receive all of it—we must live our lives avoiding as much of the attention as possible and allow God to speak through the existential, everyday circumstances which make up life.
It’s better for someone to point and say, “Look at how God uses that guy,” rather than someone to point and smirk, “Look at how that guy uses God!”
Just sayin . . . . . . . . .