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Sports Fans, God, and the Christian Life

Jan 29, 2018

Believe it or not, there are some parallels between sporting enthusiasts, and how we might go about living the Christian life. And with what just occurred over the weekend, I have some quite well-known sporting moments to draw upon here. I refer to the just-held men’s and women’s single finals at the Australian Open.

If you follow the tennis, you would know that on Saturday night Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki won her first grand slam title, while on Sunday Night the Swiss master Roger Federer won his 20th. If you are not a tennis fan, but another type of sport follower, you know what the climax of a match or tournament can be like.

If your fav team ends up in the Grand Final or Super Bowl, or if your fav individual ends up in a tennis final or some other final, you know how exciting and emotional it can be. You want your guy or your team to win so bad, so you ride the emotional roller coaster as they do poorly or do well during the game.

It is not till the very end when you finally know for sure that your team or your champ has won. It is a great relief if they do win in the end, and a great letdown if they lose. And some folks, if their fav side or fav player is losing, may even switch channels for a bit if they are watching it on TV, to avoid all the emotional turmoil! Some folks really get into these things.

And if your side does happen to win, you will likely watch it a few times later, savouring the moment in a somewhat more relaxed format. In this case, you know exactly how the game will turn out. You can now relive each point or each goal or each basket, and even if your fav is down for a while, it is no biggee, because you know full well what the outcome will be.

So now you can sit through bad patches and low points, because the knowledge of how everything turns out makes it much easier to bear. Unlike watching a game live, where you just do not know how things will end up, watching a rerun is a piece of cake, with the knowledge of the outcome at hand.

So let me take all this and turn it into a spiritual analogy. No analogy is perfect, but I think you can see where I am headed with all this. In life we do not know what will come next. But we serve a God who does. Scripture informs us that God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and that nothing takes him by surprise (Isaiah 46:11).

Thus while we must live a life of faith, we can put our full trust in God, knowing that he is quite aware of where things are headed, and he is quite capable of obtaining good and godly outcomes for his children. We can affirm key passages such as Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

So despite all the uncertainties of life, and regardless of the many foes we face, or setbacks we experience, or obstacles we encounter, we can have confidence in our all-wise, all-knowing, and all-loving heavenly Father. He will see us through our arduous journey.

This is not to say he will never allow us to experience hardships, opposition, enmity and tribulation. But he does promise to be with us in those difficult periods. He will never leave us nor forsake us, and he will ensure that his good purposes that he has for us will be achieved.

We of course cannot see the end. All we know is we are being battered and bruised at the moment, and it does not look like we are going to prevail. From our limited perspective, it seems like we might lose it all. It seems like the enemy will prevail. It seems like we are without hope.

That is how the life of faith must be. We must learn to fully trust God, even in the dark. We must believe in him and his promises when it looks like everything is going wrong. We must look at life like a sporting replay: we KNOW that we do win in the end, so the many bumps and bruises along the way become much more bearable.

So we need not go through the Christian life full of fear, grief, angst and despair. Yes, plenty of trials, tribulations and temptations will come our way. But it makes all the difference how we approach life if we know what the end will be. Just as watching live sport greatly differs from watching its replay, so stumbling through life differs from knowing that God is leading us along the way to a good end.

A theological aside

Of course at this point theology will always rear its determined head, and fair enough. But some will take umbrage at the traditional Christian doctrine of God’s omniscience, and will deny at least aspects of it. For example, there are some Christian thinkers who claim that God does NOT know the future.

Now their reasons for this, and my response to it, will have to become the stuff of another article. Suffice it to say that those who take such a view are as wrong as they are rare. Most theologians throughout church history have affirmed the omniscience of God, including his divine foreknowledge.

And tied in to all this is another theological debate having to do with the big ticket items of God’s sovereignty and man’s free choices. This has been a massive debate for millennia and will not here be satisfactorily dealt with. So only a few quick thoughts can be offered.

Whether you think God has everything in control, including all the fine details, or whether you think there is only a general providence at work, it is still comforting to know God is ultimately still in charge and will lead us to the desired end.

Sure, those who are more Reformed in their theology may look to everything in life as under the sure hand and direction of God, while those of a more Arminian persuasion will put much more emphasis on human choices, and demonic interference.

The truth is, all three aspects are certainly at work, but all Christians should believe that God can and will prevail, and if we put our full faith and trust in him, and seek to fully obey him with the Spirit’s help, we will do that which pleases him, and reach our eventual destination.

So let me steer this away from yet more contentious theological debates, and return to what I had in mind: a devotional piece to encourage you along the way. While we have not seen the whole game yet, and cannot watch the replay in this life, God has in a sense seen it all, and he knows how we are going, where we are going, and how we will get there.

As Job said, even when all the circumstantial evidence seemed to suggest the opposite, “He knows the way that I take. When he has tried me, I shall come forth like gold” (Job 23:10).

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6 Responses to Sports Fans, God, and the Christian Life

  • Zig Ziglar told a story years ago. It was two guys watching a Super Bowl. One guy was yelling and screaming for his team. The other guy wandered in and out, glancing at the screen and saying he knew his team was going to win.
    The first guy said the other guy was mad, couldn’t the other guy see that his team was losing?
    The second guy just kept saying he knew his team was going to win, and wandered out to do some chores.
    Later he came back, and the game was close. The first guy was getting worried. The second guy just wandered out again saying that his team was going to win.
    Sure enough, the first guy started to lose it as his team was also now losing.
    Finally the siren went, the whistle blew. The first guy was practically sobbing. Then he asked the second guy how he could stay so calm not even bothering to watch the drama unfold as his team caught up and won?
    The second guy said that when he went out he was listening to the live radio broadcast, while the TV was a delayed broadcast. He knew who won, because it had already been broadcast.

    Zig Ziglar’s point is that God has already broadcast the result: He has already won, the devil has been defeated. God’s people are victorious, the Christians are not the ‘losers’ the world would make them out to be.
    Jesus is our Champion, and He has led us to His victory as recorded in the Bible.

    No point in cheering on the losing team, you just need to follow Jesus, get on the winning team and help cheer them on.

  • Our individual rollercoaster ride in life surely pales in comparison with Jacob’s (in many ways more dramatic than Job’s, I think). Don’t know if anyone’s already tried to do a film dramatization of Jacob’s life, but there’s surely no shortage of ‘high tension’ material, when viewers unaware of the outcome would be on the edge of their seats, e.g.:

    The moment Jacob goes to his father wearing Esau’s clothes and goat’s fur on his arms, and Isaac is initially suspicious.

    The morning light revealing Jacob had just slept with Leah, not the bride he’d worked seven years for.

    Laban catching up with the fleeing Jacob in the hill country.

    Laban searching Rachel’s tent for the stolen gods, with viewers knowing Jacob had said that if anyone had stolen them then they must die. (Rachel!)

    The approach of Esau with hundreds of men, and Jacob’s actions to placate him in advance.

    Jacob being handed the blood-stained coat of Joseph.

    Being told that Benjamin would have to go to Egypt with his brothers in order for the family to be allowed to buy food from there.

    And of course the dramatic reunion with Joseph.

  • Hi Bill,
    Could you define what you mean by “a more Arminian persuasion”? Thank you.

  • Thanks Russell. Simply what the term has always meant in the past 500 years, with an emphasis especially on human free will, as laid out for example in the Remonstrance. This over against a strong view of God’s sovereignty as in Reformed thought.

  • Thanks, Bill. When I first read how you had used it, I thought of the Armenian genocide of 2017. I thus confused or tried to conflate Arminian with Armenian, thinking that perhaps there was a connection. Googling ‘Armenian’, I discovered that Christianity was first brought to Armenia by the early Christians and what has transpired over the centuries appeared not to represent the Trinity in doctrine and therefore not Reformed thought.
    The mix of various faiths in Armenia is interesting according to Wikipedia’s report, which although mentioning Islam as a resident faith, does not mention the Ottoman Turkish genocide that occurred among the Armenian Christians at the time of the Allied liberation of the Holy Land, pretty much on top of the Russian pogroms.
    I confess not to have heard of the Remonstrance.
    500 years ago coincides with the Reformation. Would you mind telling me how the term ‘Arminian’ came to be included in the development of the Christian faith or if you have a link in your archive?

  • Thanks again. Arminianism of course has to do with the theology of Jacob Arminius, a Dutchman who challenged conventional Calvinistic thinking. Any quick google search will offer more details, eg,

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacobus_Arminius

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