As an athlete, your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). You have been given talents and abilities by God to use for His glory. Throughout Scripture, there are many lessons and principles for athletes that can help guide you to honor God through your sport. In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore what the Bible says about athletes and extract key takeaways for applying biblical truth to your athletic endeavors.
Athletics and sports have been part of human civilization for thousands of years. From the ancient Olympic games to the global sports industry today, athletic competition captivates our attention and passion. As a Christian athlete, you may sometimes wonder – what does God think about sports? Is it okay to play sports as a believer? What principles from Scripture can guide me in my athletic endeavors?
The Bible does not directly address sports or athletics, since modern sports did not exist at the time. However, there are many relevant principles and lessons in Scripture that can help provide guidance for Christians involved in athletics. God cares about all areas of our lives, including sports and competition. When submitted to His Lordship, athletics can be used for His glory and to live out biblical values.
In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore several key themes related to athletes and sports found throughout the Bible:
- Our bodies belong to God and are temples of the Holy Spirit
- Using our athletic gifts and abilities for God’s glory
- Playing with integrity and honor
- Handling competition and winning/losing
- Being a light and living out our faith through sports
Whether you are a professional athlete, college competitor, or recreational weekend warrior, these biblical principles can help you honor God through your athletic participation and performance. Let’s explore what the Bible says about athletes and how you can apply biblical truth to your sports.
- Our bodies belong to God, treat them with respect
- Use your athletic gifts to glorify God
- Play with integrity, honor opponents and rules
- Handle winning and losing with grace and humility
- Be a light for Christ in how you play, practice, and live
Our Bodies Belong to God and are Temples of the Holy Spirit
The first key principle from Scripture is that as Christians, our bodies do not belong to us, but to God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 states:
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (NKJV)
Our physical bodies belong to God and serve as temples of the Holy Spirit. This has profound implications for how we should treat and care for our bodies.
As an athlete who uses your body intensely through training and competition, you have a responsibility to be a good steward of the body God has given you. This includes healthy nutrition, sleep, hydration, and avoiding unhealthy patterns like drug abuse. We must treat our bodies with respect rather than abusing them for our own glory.
Paul makes this point explicitly for athletes in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27:
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (NKJV)
While pursuing athletic success requires immense bodily training and discipline, we should do so in a way that honors God’s ownership of our bodies. Discipline your body, as Paul did, but do not worship your body or push it beyond healthy boundaries. Our bodies belong to God, so treat them as His temple.
As Christian athletes, a biblical view of our bodies provides healthy motivation for taking care of ourselves physically, nutrition-wise, and through rest. We only have one body, and it must last a lifetime of serving the Lord. Honor God by fueling, training, and competing in a way that stewards your body with respect and service to God.
Using Our Athletic Gifts and Abilities for God’s Glory
The Bible teaches that all human gifts and abilities, including athletic talents, should be used for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 states, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This includes our participation and efforts in athletic competition.
When athletes have particular gifts of strength, speed, agility, endurance, or coordination, these talents originate from God Himself. James 1:17 reminds us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”
As Christian competitors, we must acknowledge God as the source of our athletic talents and abilities. We should develop and train these gifts not for our own glory, but to use them for God’s glory. Our competitive motives should flow from a desire to honor God and put our abilities on display for His purposes.
The Apostle Paul uses the metaphor of a body to describe how each person’s gifts work together to build up the church:
“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…” (Romans 12:4-6 NKJV)
Every Christian has gifts that differ according to God’s grace. Athletic abilities are valuable gifts from God that we can use to fulfill different roles in the body of Christ. As an athlete, consider how your unique abilities can be put to use serving God’s Kingdom. How can you leverage the platform and talents God has given you for Gospel impact? See your athletic gifts as a calling from God, not merely for personal success.
The goal is not just to win games or championships for our own glory and fame. Rather, we compete to use God’s gifts in us to point others towards Christ. Competing with Kingdom purposes in mind allows God to display His power through our efforts.
As believers, our primary identity is not in our athletic achievements, but in Christ. We compete not to exalt ourselves, but to exalt Him through the gifts He has graciously given us. Are you stewarding your athletic talents for God’s glory?
Playing with Integrity and Honor
The Bible emphasizes living with integrity and honor in all areas of life. Scripture says to avoid even a “hint” of wrongdoing and to live honorably in the Lord’s sight:
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11 NKJV)
The principles of integrity and honor absolutely apply to athletic competition. Christian athletes should be known for fair play, respecting the rules, and competing with a high level of sportsmanship.
Winning at all costs with a “win at all costs” attitude is unbiblical and dishonorable. Unethical cheating or dirty play has no place in the life of a Christian athlete. Playing with integrity even when no one is watching is a powerful way to display the transforming work of Christ.
The Apostle Paul again uses the metaphor of athletics to describe ministry in 2 Timothy 2:5, saying, “And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.” Just as athletes must submit to the rules of their sport in order to win, Christians must obey God’s Word to experience the joy of spiritual victory.
As a believer, you represent Christ with your competitive attitude and actions. Be beyond reproach by competing with integrity, honoring competitors, and by seeking to comply with both the letter and spirit of the rules. Win or lose, you can glorify God by playing with integrity.
The world desperately needs more role models of integrity in sports. As a Christian, you have the opportunity to be a light and set a positive example for younger athletes. Play with fierce determination, but do so with honor, respect, fairness, and integrity.
Handling Competition and Winning/Losing
Playing sports inherently involves competition – two sides with opposing objectives, trying to win. The desire to win is not wrong in itself, but Scripture contains important principles for handling competitive drive.
Galatians 5:26 says, “Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Competition often brings out fleshly desires like pride, envy of others’ success, and provoking dissension. Christian athletes must resist these attitudes and instead model Christlike character in the heat of competition.
The Apostle Paul again uses the metaphor of athletic competition in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 to encourage believers to live with eternity in mind:
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”
While competitive intensity is good, Paul reminds us that earthly athletic success and accolades are fleeting. As believers, we compete to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant” from our Lord on the day when we receive our eternal reward from Him. Keeping an eternal perspective allows us to compete with intensity while avoiding fleshly rivalries or becoming defined by ephemeral wins or losses.
Winning or losing athletic competitions should not determine our identity or value in Christ. We must maintain humility and grace whether we win or lose. Philippians 2:3-4 instructs believers to “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Christian competitors can model these verses by celebrating opponents’ successes, looking out for their physical safety, and using wins or losses as opportunities to glorify God. Steward success with gratitude and failure with grace. Define yourself by your identity in Christ, not by athletic achievements.
Handling competitive drive biblically also means avoiding any temptation to cheat or play dirty. While the world praises athletes with a win at all costs attitude, Proverbs 11:1 says, “Dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight.” Pursue victories, but only through legitimate and ethical means with honor.
Athletic competition is ultimately an opportunity to glorify God in the intensity of battle, while modeling Christlike virtue and character. Let your conduct reflect well on the Lord you represent.
Being a Light and Living Out Your Faith
Finally, Scripture calls believers to be lights for Christ in a dark world. Philippians 2:14-15 says, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…”
As high-profile athletic figures, you have a unique platform to be a light for Christ – through your words, actions, and how you live your life on and off the field of play. Playing with character and integrity, showing care and concern for others, handling wins and losses with grace – these can all shine the light of Jesus to teammates and opponents who do not know Him.
However, being a light for Christ involves more than just playing the game the right way. It means living out your faith in all areas of life, through personal evangelism, discipleship, involvement at church, sound doctrine, and above all, personal holiness.
1 Timothy 4:7-8 offers instruction for living a godly life: “But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
While athletic training is good and has benefits, pursuing spiritual training and godly character is far more valuable. Make time for prayer, Bible study, church involvement, and sharing your faith. Competing well is good, but living well for Christ is far better. Let your devotion for developing Christian character match your devotion to athletic skill.
Be ready to share the Gospel and your personal testimony of faith when opportunities arise. Balance excellence in competition with excellence in representing Jesus. You have a platform to impact people for eternity. Are you leveraging your influence as an athlete to live out your faith and be a light for the Gospel? That is the ultimate prize!
In summary, while the Bible does not specifically discuss modern sports, there are many relevant biblical principles that apply to Christian athletes. Our bodies belong to God, so treat them with care. Use athletic gifts for God’s glory, not your own. Play with integrity and honor opponents. Keep competitive drive in check and maintain humility in winning and losing. And above all, be a light for Christ in how you play, practice, and live your whole life.
Applying these biblical truths can help you bring honor to God through your participation in athletics. Whatever your level of competition, remember that you are competing first and foremost for the Lord. Let His pleasure be your ultimate goal. The principles from God’s word provide guidance for pursuing athletic endeavors for His glory.
As you reflect on these themes, consider how adopting a biblical perspective can positively impact your attitude and engagement in sports. How can you intentionally integrate your faith and athleticism? Ask the Lord to help you see sports and competition through His eyes.
As believers, the Bible reminds us that one day we will give an account for our lives before God’s judgment seat. On that day, no athletic achievements or trophies will matter. Only what was done for Jesus will last. Make each practice, game, and competition count for eternity by honoring God with your abilities. Play for an audience of One.