Monday, January 12, 2015

God and Sports

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Not everybody is an athlete.

However, an estimated 2.5 billion people on earth watch sports on television.

It is said, the remaining 4.5 billion would like to but don't have television access.

Nowhere in America is the interest in football higher than it is right here in the Northwest---at least now.

The Seattle Seahawks won their game Saturday and will play the Green Bay Packers next Sunday for the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl, again.

The University of Oregon plays Ohio State tonight for the national college championship.

The Seahawks are as famous for their fans as they are for their play on the football field.

Tens of thousands of fans from the Northwest have traveled to Dallas, Texas to attend the Oregon-Ohio State game, while thousands more are making plans to attend the Super Bowl hoping that Seattle will make it again this year.

Millions will watch tonight's college championship game, while hundreds of millions will watch the Super Bowl on television in a few weeks.

Is there an intersection between God and sports?

The Seahawks beat Carolina Saturday. The Seattle Times described the single play that pretty much ensured a Seattle win as a "sigh of relief" by the 68,524 people inside Century Link Field---and, I would add, by the millions of us who were not inside the stadium, but watching on television

High interest in sports is not a new phenomenon. In fact sports were so popular that metaphors were used in the writings of philosophers Epictetus, Philo and others in ancient times.

In I Corinthians 9:24-26, Paul, writing to the city that had hosted the Isthmain Games, uses the metaphor of boxing.

Hebrews 12:1 speaks of "running a race with perseverance;" Philippians 2:16 "not running" or "running in vain;" or having "run in vain" Galatians 2:2 and 5:7; and in his last letter before he was killed, Paul wrote in II Timothy 4:7, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith."

The New Testament is no longer being written---it is complete. But the legacy of our lives are being written in the hearts and minds of those with whom we have contact, and there is a second point in which God and sports intersect.

The men and women who are athletes often gain unparalleled fame. And influence.

This gives them a unique platform from which to share their faith in Jesus Christ. The press is quick to cover the stories involving athletes with personal problems, but often not so quick to cover the personal lives of those who are sold out to God. However, there is a level of success where the press is forced to recognize the spiritual dimension of the athlete's life.

Super Bowl participants, national champions and World Series players have that opportunity.

Following Seattle's Super Bowl win last year, the New Jersey press ran a story titled, "Super Bowl 2014: Religion Runs Deep For Many NFL Players And Teams." Other news services carried the story as well.

It's an inspiring story, one well worth reading. Take a moment and read it.

Several Seahawks told the press their relationship with Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of who they are personally. They told how their faith is the substance of their personal lives. How it is the most important thing in their lives.

The New Jersey press said, "Faith and football---with themes of adversity, dedication and striving to improve---have always seemed tied together," citing some of football's greatest players who used the sport for a platform to share their Christian faith.

Professor Seth Dowland, history professor at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, told the NJ press, "The idea of competition is parallel to the Christian life because Evangelicals have "for decades if not centuries felt this sense of being at war , whether its spiritual war against Satan, or a cultural war against the forces of secularism."

Penny Starr published a story, "Be All In For God First, Then All In For Football" this weekend at CNS News.

She reports there are a number of confessing Christians on the Duck football team. None the least is quarterback coach and offensive coordinator Scott Frost, who is telling his players God is first, winning the football game second.


He says, "If football is the most important thing, if I'm 'All In' for football and football is first, then I've built my house on the sand, and once something goes wrong with that, then you're completely miserable and your whole world gets turned upside down."

He says, "It's very powerful if you can be 'All In' for God first and then 'All In' for football second because then, no matter what happens with football, even if you're competing for a national title and you lose a game, if you're 'All In' for God first, your foundation's on the Rock and you're not going to be shaken."

Scott has been personally mentoring a group of athletes on the Oregon team including recent Heisman Trophy winner quarterback Marcus Mariota. He says they are ready for tonight's game.

Chris Maragos, who played for Seattle last year, is now with Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles. He said following last year's Super Bowl game, "We understand the attention football brings. This is a big deal. But to us, there's more to it than that. It's not just about football. Jesus is bigger than that."

That's my point.

Most of us are not playing in any important athletic event. But we are fully engaged in the game of life. You don't have to be on a football field, basketball court, baseball diamond, tennis court, golf course or soccer field to get these principles.

More important than whether the Seahawks and Ducks win, is are we ready for "our" game.

This is an important intersection in life where we can learn from the metaphors of sports.

The way in which we travel the path of our life is dependent upon how we implement these same values and principles. And how big Jesus is to us personally.

Be "All In" for God. Build your life on the Rock, not the sand. And remember, "Jesus is bigger than all that."

Be Bold. Be Courageous. Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Prayerful. Be Blessed. Be A Winner.