Sports - Is Christian Involvement Wrong?
We have now entered the final part of this threefold series on worldly-music, worldly-drama and worldly-sports. We trust that "eye-gate, ear-gate and heart-gate" will be affected as we consider this subject. It is probably considered by some of little value, but let us not be fooled, my beloved brethren! If the lid were taken off all true believers, one may be surprised how many get involved in the sports world. Enough said! This world has snares, pitfalls and hidden rocks, and some have fallen. Forewarned is forearmed. This is a real world and its effects upon our Christian living (in particular the young, but not all young) are quite alarming. It may be of import to suggest that the figures used in the Bible, particularly by the apostle Paul, are taken from the sports world. He takes us to the stadium with the runner and the race (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12: 1; 2 Timothy 2:5 & 4:7), then to the boxer and the wrestler (1 Corinthians 9:26; Ephesians 6:12).
Fully aware of their dedication and discipline, the writer skillfully uses these figures for spiritual encouragement. This basically underscores the principle of discipline, commitment and loyalty. Paul uses the runner and the race as a lever to awaken in the Christian mind the need of "priorities" in life. The Christian is in the spiritual race, in the spiritual battle and has his/her sights on the unfading and eternal crown in contrast to the fading laurels of the world's reward. Paul was most colorful in his writings in employing to great advantage the sports world. The lessons are potent and practical. A word to the wise! This is not written to deprive children from expending some vibrancy and energy in games with a ball or a bat, in swimming, etc. This is only natural for youth. We who are older forget our growing-up life, and at times are quick to condemn what we did ourselves. We forget, or do we? Again, a little walking or running for health purposes, etc., is legitimate for us all. Christians are not superhuman or hyperspiritual folks, but simple and humble followers of our rejected Lord. We feel our weakness and dependence upon the Lord and the gracious help of the Holy Spirit.
This is an appeal to younger Christians for consideration, yet it is for all age groups. If the result of this meditation is a life yielded to God and for God, the Lord will be glorified. This world becomes increasingly crazy, especially in the realm of sports. Every newspaper and the news media, from TV to video, have their greatest following in sports. They capitalize on it. Sports has become the talk in the home, work, town, city and country. It is an intoxicated sports world. Let us consider three questions:
a) What is wrong with sports for the believer?
The answer: As we look at this realistically, we will see who is the planner or inventor of sports. It has its origin in the Master Planner of this age, the Devil, who has successfully ensnared the billions of human lives in the arena of sports. In Great Britain, Europe and South America, it is soccer. In North America (Canada), it is hockey. In North America (USA), it is baseball, basketball, football and boxing/wrestling. Each country majors in certain areas and becomes the leader in its field.
There is an evil side and a clean side to "sports" and this we shall briefly consider. The evil side? What do you mean? Without unnecessary details, it is marked by corruption, bribery, deceit, immorality and even murder. Wow! It could well be the biggest enterprise commercially and financially with billions and billions of dollars involved. Staggering! The sponsors of the games, who are they? Sadly, it is chiefly the tobacco and the beer manufacturers. These have ruined society, and continue to send souls on the fast track to eternal ruin! The "Billy Sundays" would be misfits in our society. Most athletes are over the top at forty years of age. It is heart-rending when we read of the shattered lives of many. Suicides, broken lives, ruined family lives and immoral living! They reached the top but suddenly hit the bottom. Their little world crashed and they lay in ruins. The question of where they will be in eternity sends a quiver to the heart of the child of God. We should weep for these slaves to sport. 2 Timothy 3:2-4 says it all: "Men shall be lovers of self, of money and of PLEASURE."
Is this condemnation going too far? The reader is the judge. This is the red light of warning: beware of involvement in "worldly sports;" it is NOT of God but of the world. As to the "clean side," we must be balanced. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, "Bodily exercise profiteth a little" but it does have certain value physically. Many young men and women enter the realm of sports and become fine athletes, and they are admired for their dedication and their commitment as they focus in giving their best to the sports world. They focus all their energies with one ambition: to be winners!
While we admire these qualities of dedication, it is only for a brief time. It has some value for the present, but is short-lived. As one Olympian said when at the podium to receive the gold medal, "I feel empty." We admire C. T. Studd, a well-known sportsman who gave his entire fortune to serve Christ. Should not every grace-sought, blood-bought and Spirit-wrought believer stand in contrast to the self-lover, the money-lover and the pleasurelover? It has been well said, "any dead fish can go down the stream, but it takes a living one to go upstream." Which way are you traveling?
b) Why is it wrong for a believer to attend the sports world?
The answer: This has been a question posed to the writer from time to time. With compassion, and I trust wisdom, I would answer this question. Please give this your attention, 1) Can I keep a clear conscience before God and men by attending the major sports games? 2) Can I take my Lord with me to such places? 3) Can I be happy to cheer on the players who are on the road to eternal destruction? 4) Can I rise up in worship on Lord's day morning after attending a ball-game, a soccer-game, a hockey-game, a basketball-game or a golf-game, where the Name of the Lord is often degraded? 5) Can I testify to sinners after sitting with them in the sports centers of the world? Do I need to answer these questions? Answer with a resounding "NO." Christianity is a real, living display of what Christ can do with a sinner in saving, sanctifying and satisfying the heart forever and filling the empty void that the world can never fill.
Shame on me that I sought
Another joy than this,
Or dreamt a heart at rest with Thee
Could crave for earthly bliss!
Our place, dear child of God, is one of separation from the "sports world" which will eventually lead billions of souls to eternal woe and misery. Let us focus on the rejected Christ whom the world cast out. Has the world changed or have we changed? The world in its different facets rejected, ridiculed and refused Him. 1 John 2:15-16 says, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. All that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." Maybe this verse became like a one-stringed instrument, or a stuck gramophone needle and it died! We need it resurrected again. It is time for reality. The unnamed profligate woman in John 4 says it all, "Come, see a Man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?" What a testimony! What reality! She left her water pot. Lord, give us souls of like kind.
The late Mr. Albert Ramsay, whom we loved and miss so much, often said, "The world loved Albert Ramsay the fiddler, but not Albert Ramsay the Christian." It is sad when professing Christians can name the sports heroes in the world's Hall of Fame, but ask them of the spiritual heroes in Heaven's Hall of Fame, and they are blank! Heaven's heroes of faith ought to be household names. Commence in Hebrews 11 and add to the unfinished list: Wycliffe, W. Tyndale, M. Luther, Ridley, H. Latimer, Wishart, J. Knox, J. Bunyon, G. Whitfield, G. Muller, D. L. Moody, the Bonar brothers, R. M. McCheyne, C. H. Spurgeon, and the chief men among the brethren, and a host of others. Are we acquainted with these noble and separated men whom the world disowned? Worldly sports to them belonged to the world; they made time count for eternity. They were Spirit-filled believers, devoted to their beloved Master. They were un-worldly!
c) What is the answer for the Christian to worldly sports?
The answer: In the incident in Mark 11: 12 when the Lord sent his disciples to bring the untamed and unbroken colt to Him, they said, "What shall we say to the owner?" The Lord's answer, "The Lord hath need of him." This would be the answer to our lives today, "the Lord hath need of thee." Put your life in the hands of the Sovereign Master, and give the Lord control of your life. Romans 12:1-3 is a challenge to all, the presentation of the body! God's mercies are so great, beyond calculation and comprehension; it is fitting I give Him my "small" all in return. There is fullness in our Lord Jesus Christ that satisfies. May the sentiment of the old hymn ring true once again, "Take the world but give me Jesus."
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay,
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.
Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold ‘oer my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit, till all shall see,
Christ only, always, living in me.