You are an athlete who loves sports, but you also love Jesus. As a Christian, you want to honor God in everything you do – including when you compete in athletic events. In today’s sports culture, it can often feel like Christianity and sports don’t mix. But is that really true? What does the Bible say about sports, competition, and physical activity? In this comprehensive blog post, we will examine sports through a biblical lens and provide practical ways for you as a Christian athlete to glorify God through your passion for athletics.
- Sports and competition are neither condemned nor affirmed in Scripture
- God gifted us with bodies meant for movement and activity
- Sports provide opportunities to demonstrate Christlike character
- Winning isn’t condemned, but pride and poor sportsmanship are
- Be a witness for Christ through how you conduct yourself as an athlete
- Glorify God and point others to Jesus through your words and actions
A Biblical View of Sports and Competition
The Bible does not outright condemn or affirm athletic competition and sports. Scripture does not declare them to be inherently evil or sinful. At the same time, the Bible does not indicate that sports should be a top priority in the Christian life. So what conclusion can we draw about the appropriate role of sports for followers of Jesus Christ?
When looking at Scripture, we get a picture of a balanced perspective. The body and physical activity are viewed as gifts from God that can glorify Him when used appropriately. Sports and competition are morally neutral – meaning neither inherently good nor bad. The morality comes from the heart attitudes and conduct of those who participate. With the right perspective, sports can be used for God’s glory. Without the right perspective, they can become an idol. As Christians, we have freedom in Christ to participate in athletics and enjoy sports when done in a way that honors the Lord.
Here are some key biblical principles to keep in mind:
Our Bodies Are a Gift from God
The Bible makes it clear that our physical bodies and abilities are gifts from God meant for His glory. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says:
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (NKJV)
We have an obligation as Christians to take care of our bodies – the temple of the Holy Spirit. This includes staying physically fit and active. Sports and competition can be one way to fulfill this responsibility.
In 1 Timothy 4:8, Paul wrote:
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (NIV)
So while spiritual training is more valuable, Paul acknowledges that physical exercise does have value. Sports, when done for the right reasons, can be a form of physical training that has benefits.
God Gifted Us Differently with Abilities
Not everyone has the same athletic interests and abilities. Romans 12:4-8 makes this clear:
“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them…” (NKJV)
We all have different gifts and interests. For some, sports may be a more significant area of giftedness. The key is to use our unique gifts – including athleticism – for God’s purposes.
Be Content in All Circumstances
Sports come with both wins and losses. As Christians, we need to learn to be content in either circumstance. Philippians 4:11-13 says:
“…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (NKJV)
With the strength Christ provides, you can learn to be content whether you win or lose. Your identity is in Him, not your athletic success.
One danger of sports is pride. When athletes achieve success, it can feed ego and self-glorification. But Scripture warns against pride:
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18, ESV)
And in Jeremiah 9:23-24, God makes clear what we should boast in:
“Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.””
As athletes, we must be vigilant against pride entering our hearts due to success. Instead, boasting in knowing and glorifying God should be our focus.
Winning Isn’t Condemned, but Poor Sportsmanship Is
The Bible nowhere condemns the desire to win or succeed in athletic competition. In fact, the apostle Paul uses competitive sports analogies on several occasions, suggesting there is nothing inherently wrong with seeking to win. But Scripture does condemn poor attitudes and conduct when competing.
2 Timothy 2:5 says:
“An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” (ESV)
Cheating to gain an advantage or poor sportsmanship would fall into violating the “rules” of fair competition. As Christians, we should compete within the rules and honor both our competitors and the officials.
Proverbs 15:33 says:
“The fear of the Lord teaches wisdom; humbleness precedes honor.” (CSB)
Being humble and gracious, win or lose, is key for the Christ-follower. Seeking to glorify oneself above others goes against biblical values.
So in summary, a desire to compete and win is not sinful. But pursuing victory at the expense of character and godly conduct is. Winning must not be our ultimate aim – glorifying Christ must take precedence.
How to Glorify God as a Christian Athlete
Given these biblical principles, how can you as a Christian athlete bring glory to God through sports? Here are some practical suggestions:
Make God Your Primary Focus
Before sports, remember that God must be first place in your heart. Sports cannot supersede your relationship with Jesus Christ. Make time for daily Bible reading and prayer to keep your faith a priority. Ask for God’s help in keeping sports and winning in proper perspective.
Demonstrate Christlike Character
On the field or court, demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Show Christlike character even when others around you don’t. Respect officials and accept their calls graciously, without arguing. Refuse to retaliate if others play dirty. Encourage your teammates positively. Demonstrate good sportsmanship at all times. Keep your perspective eternal.
Use Your Athletic Platform for the Gospel
Sports give you a platform to share your faith. Represent Jesus well so others will be drawn to Him. Be ready to give a reason for the hope you have in Christ (1 Peter 3:15). Look for opportunities to build relationships with teammates and competitors so you can share the gospel. Use social media to reflect your faith values. Let your excellence reflect the excellence of Christ.
Keep Health in Proper Balance
While training hard is good, don’t become so obsessed with sports and health that it is unwise. Make time for rest and church involvement. Eat healthy without becoming extreme. Be careful about supplements and enhancements. Take needed off-seasons to rejuvenate spiritually, mentally, and physically. Don’t make sports your functional savior by looking to them for meaning and purpose.
Maintain Ethical Standards
Don’t compromise godly ethics and values in your quest to win. Avoid performance-enhancing drugs that could harm your body. Reject cheating to gain a competitive advantage. Practice and compete by the rules. Maintain sexual purity and appropriate relationships with the opposite gender. Honor God morally in all you do.
When you achieve athletic success, do not become prideful. Recognize that all your gifts and abilities come from God (1 Corinthians 4:7). Be thankful for opportunities to use the athletic gifts God gave you. Keep an eternal perspective remembering that worldly success and trophies don’t last forever. Boast only in the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14).
God has gifted you as a Christian athlete. Sports can be something that honors the Lord when done with the right perspective and motives. By focusing first on your relationship with Jesus Christ, demonstrating Christlike character, pursuing excellence with ethics, keeping winning in balance, and staying humble, you can glorify God through the athletic gifts and opportunities He has given you. Keep your eyes on Jesus, play by His rules, and represent Christ well on the field or court for His glory.