Being an athlete can be a lot of fun, but it can also come with many challenges, especially for the Christian. As athletes, we face grueling, gut-checking workouts that question not only our physical but also our mental stamina. Often times we have to learn to interact with teammates who have different worldviews than our own. We may even struggle agreeing with coaching methods. Within one athletic season we may face great joy and great heartbreak – and our response to each is noted by those around us.
Sometimes it can feel like the pressure is too much.
But through all these challenges, we get a chance to become more like Christ. Here’s why:
Playing a sport teaches us the kind of diligence and perseverance to which Jesus calls his disciples. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Denying our body’s desire to quit when it gets hard, we push through and build up the physical and spiritual toughness that it takes to follow Christ.
Being an athlete also gives us the opportunity for accountability. As Christ-followers, we face tough choices and temptations every day. We are commanded to keep ourselves accountable to each other and to God by being in community with like-minded people. Sports teams can provide the same type of discipline. As we begin to develop friendships outside of practice, we can ask our teammates to give more in practice – and we can expect them to do the same for us. When accountability is established, improvement is inevitable; the same goes for our spiritual lives.
By participating on a team, we learn how to respect others who are different from us. With the trust of our teammates comes the influence of a wide spectrum of opinions, and we certainly won’t agree with them all. Our teammates, coaches, parents, officials, bus drivers – they are precious in God’s sight. When we can learn to genuinely respect and love people who don’t think the way way do, we can build the Kingdom one relationship at a time.
As part of a sports team, we have the opportunity to be a light for Christ by taking small actions. Praying before each practice and game. Offering a car ride home. Listening when a teammate when confides in you about a hardship. As the Bible commands, simply love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18). Just as Jesus loved in action, we can do the same.
Sports give Christians the unique opportunity to break down barriers and share a common language with a group of people we may not otherwise interact with. How will we take advantage of the opportunity God has given us?
At the AIA Sports Complex & Retreat Center we focus on building the Total Athlete – mind, body and spirit. To learn more about the Total Athlete Experience, go here.