The Dancing Puritan

Monday, August 19, 2013

Losing by Winning

What does it profit an athlete if he wins the championship, is awarded the MVP, and loses his soul?

With crisper air blowing through the trees and the beginning of a new school year, excitement is in the air about sports. Yes, baseball has been going strong throughout the summer but, if the truth were told, the "favorite past time" of Americans is really just a bridge to the fall and winter sports.

I am a sports fan. Our family have many years invested in physicals, shoes, fuel and fast food. We have raised our children in gyms and on fields. Our three oldest daughters have either played or have been given the opportunity to play college sports. I have a daughter that coached girl's basketball and I have coached basketball for a number of years.

We have been to the top of the sport's mountain and down deep in the valley. We have (and do) enjoy sports, and we been fatigued by our commitment to sports. Was it worth it? Is it worth it?  I can't answer the question for you but there are some important questions that you need to ask if you are a fan, coach, or player.

1.  What place do sports occupy in your heart? One way that you know what has filled your heart is by what comes out of your mouth. What do you talk about in a given day? I know you talk about a lot of important things, necessary things, and non-sinful things. What you talk about (write about) is very revealing. It touches on what is important to you. One of the notable characteristics of spiritual revivals in history, is the conversation of folks. Jonathan Edwards writes about the change in conversation by those who were touched by revival:

 . . . all other talk but about spiritual and eternal things, was soon thrown by; all the conversation, in all companies and upon all occasions, was upon these things only, ulness so much was necessary for people carrying on their ordinary secular business . . . Religion was with all sorts the great concern, and the world was a thing only by the bye. The only thing in their view was to get the kingdom of heaven, and everyone appeared to be pressing into it. The engagedness of their hearts in this great concern could not be hid, it appeared in their very countenances . . .There was scarcely a single person in the town, old or young, left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world.

2. How often do sports replace other important duties in your life? A good place to start is with the Lord's Day. When sports conflict with the Lord's Day services, which one wins out? I understand that an argument might be made for missing an occasional Lord's Day service. But do you really want your children to grow up thinking that, at the end of the day, it is better to play sports than go to church on Sunday? What about other duties? There are duties to family and friends. There are duties at home and at work. There are duties to the needy. Sometimes, during a sport's season, it seems that all that matters is sports. Duties are neglected, people are neglected, and even the worship of God is neglected in order to play or watch sports.

3.  Do you think about, talk and write about sports in an exalted way? It is easy, for sports fans, to talk and act like sports are more important than art, dance, farming, writing poetry, sewing, and than almost anything else. Do other non-sport's people people feel diminished by your attitude towards sports?

I write as one who believes that sports can be watched, enjoyed, and played to the glory of God. I am feeling the pain of not being able to afford cable television this year to watch the University of Georgia defeat the Florida Gators. I am looking forward to watching two daughters play basketball. I love to support my daughters and cheer for their teams. I write as one who believes God can be glorified in all things. I am not an opponent of sports. Yet all of us who play and watch need to ask some thoughtful questions. I have mentioned just three. I can think of others.  What questions do you think should be asked?