Loss. Pain. Struggle. Sacrifice. Community. Perseverance. Triumph. Love.
Sports has it all. The comeback win, the last-minute game-winner, the underdog upset—we love stories and emotions, and sports has some of the best storylines possible.
The Lakers played a basketball game less than a week after Kobe Bryant died. The Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team to win the NBA Finals after being down 3-1. Jesse Owens won four Olympic gold medals in Nazi-controlled Germany. Leicester City beat the 5000-1 odds to win the Premier League. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won a race on the same track where his father had died only a few months before. Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team but finished his career as arguably the greatest basketball player of all time.
You get the point. We watch sports because they take our attention off our own lives and our own problems. We watch sports because we enjoy the beauty and precision of the athletic competition. We watch sports because they bring us together. We watch sports because they reflect all the storylines of our own lives.
But at the end of the day, as so many have noted in the wake of tragedies connected to sporting events, soccer, basketball, tennis, whatever it may be—they’re ultimately just games. There’s a reason we love them, but like most things in this world, they’re not worth living for.
Don’t get me wrong—I love sports. I enjoy playing and watching and talking about sports. Even the Bible uses athletic competitions to illustrate truth.
But no matter how many trophies a team lifts at the end of the season, they’re always going to want more. The hard-fought championship win doesn’t satisfy the ultimate need of the heart. Only Christ can do that.
1 Timothy 4:8 says, “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”
What is most important, then, is not athletics, or really anything finite, but godliness. The pursuit of God should be the goal of our lives’ race.
However, one thing I have seen is that Christians can use sports as a powerful vehicle for sharing the Gospel. At the end of every interview I do with our Bruins coaches, I try to ask them how they are teaching their players to use sports for the glory of God.
The answers all boil down to this—do your best in every competition, give thanks to God for the ability to play and use sports in a way that would reflect God’s character.
From my own experience, I have seen how sports can become a great way to share the Gospel. This past summer, I went to Cuba for a mission trip, and one day, the team decided to go out and play soccer together for a little while. After kicking the ball around for about five minutes, we realized that about 20 kids had wandered up to us off the streets in order to play with us. We started to play an actual game, and at the end of the game, we were able to give the Gospel to all of the kids who had joined us.
Just as a runner looks ahead to the finish line, we’re looking ahead to an even greater prize—being in the presence of God forever!