September 13th 2013 No comments yet
When I was a high school football player, I had a very specific schedule I would follow before a game. I had a certain order I would put on my uniform. After it was on, I would lay flat on my back on the floor, helmet and everything, until we went out for warmups. During warmups, I shook the hand of every player and coach on my team. When I went back into the locker room, I prayed.
But I never asked God for wins. Ever.
It was never explained to me, but somehow I knew God had more important things to worry about than the outcome of high school football games. I was fairly certain if I did pray for a win it would somehow anger Him to the point He would ensure I’d lose, a telling indicator of my knowledge about my faith at that age.
But it’s an interesting question: What role does God play in the outcome of games? Does He influence sports to serve His purposes? I’m not going to pretend I possess the theological knowledge of Pastor Chuck. If he’s the Aaron Rodgers of biblical knowledge, then I’m Mark Sanchez. In fact, I’m probably about to embarrass myself mightily trying to tackle this, but I’ll do my best to explore a question that has been eating at me.
The obvious answer to the question is yes, God plays a role in sports because He plays a role in everything. That’s a given; He’s omnipresent and omnipotent. There is nowhere we can go to escape Him and there’s nothing we do that He doesn’t have a hand in (other than sin). Perhaps a better question is at what level does God affect sports?
The most common prayer I would say before games was for God to allow me to play to the best of the ability He gave me and to protect me from injury. I felt comfortable asking Him that because I was simply praying for my individual well-being. As one of His children, God loves me unconditionally and cares about my individual concerns.
The catch is I grew up in a very church-influenced community, and a coach or player would usually say that same prayer over the entire team. In the small towns of Texas, it’s a good bet someone on the other sideline is doing that as well.
For the sake of the argument, let’s say these are two teams with the exact same talent level, good coaching, etc. Both just recited the standard “best of ability, no injury” prayer. How does God decide to answer the requests? Who does He choose to grant the ability to play to the best of his ability? In an indirect way, whichever team He grants the most prayer requests to wins, right?
It’s well documented throughout the Bible that God uses trials and hardships to get our attention, grow us in our faith, and teach us lessons. Jonah had to be eaten by a fish to put him back on the right track. Job endured backbreaking trials. Abraham nearly sacrificed his own son to learn the concept of God sacrificing Himself for us.
Is it too far of a stretch that He would use a torn ACL to teach a quarterback straying in his walk with God not to rely on his own strength? To use a loss in a state championship game as a venue to point out to a player that he is guilty of idolatry of his sport before God?
The last example is something I experienced personally.. If God indeed meant to teach me that lesson, then by that logic my teammates and I were doomed to lose from the start because of me. While I am certainly not conceited enough to believe God tailors the happenings of the world solely to teach me things, it raises the question of why God saw fit not to teach someone on the other team that lesson. Have the 2007 Greenville Christian Eagles football team turned into a bunch of idolizing heathens because they beat us, and God didn’t teach them the same lesson? I’m betting that’s not the case. Though, with that bunch you can never be sure.
I’m inclined to say that the individual paths God lays before us intersect at sporting events, and whoever God has planned to learn the most from a win will win. If we lose, it’s not because God isn’t a fan of our team but that the individuals on the losing side stand to gain much more from the lessons of defeat.. Basically, God uses the outcomes of games for greater, more eternal benefits and lessons than an earthly pursuit like a football game could ever provide. Before the commentaries and exegeticals about free will come flying at me, I know it is a huge generalization full of holes. No matter what level of influence God chooses to have on sports, it’s undeniable He has a hand in them in some fashion.
My dislike of Tim Tebow as a quarterback is well-documented. While you cannot deny his passing is less than perfect, there is no question he is an admirable man of God. Unless you’re Skip Bayless, it was widely thought the Pittsburgh Steelers would mercilessly crush the Denver Broncos in the Wild Card round of the 2011 NFL playoffs. Nobody gave Tebow a walnut’s chance in a squirrel den that he would pull out another miracle.
With the biggest television audience an AFC Wild Card game has had in 24 years, Tebow led the Broncos to an incredible overtime victory. Some of his final stats? 316 yards passing. 31.6 yards per pass, made possible by a game winning 80-yard pass. John 3:16 references were made on ESPN and other news outlets.
I will never believe that was a coincidence.
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