The Christian athlete understands that when God purchased them through the death and resurrection of Jesus, He bought everything. This includes their sport. Against this backdrop, the Christian athlete does not leave God behind when it’s time to engage with their sport. They do not go long stretches of practice or play without consciously thinking about how God wants to be included in what they are doing.
God wants us to give Him what is rightfully His. This does not mean He wants to take it from us so we can never use (or play) it again, but that He wants us to leverage it in a way that magnifies His name. In practicing the discipline of including God in all aspects of the sport, the redeemed athlete increases their joy—and glorifies God in the process.
They see sport as a tool in their sanctification.
It can be easy for athletes who identify as Christians to view their sport as the bank in their lives that God deposits blessings into when we live obediently before Him. In this view, worldly success in sport becomes God’s way of rewarding us, and lack of success is God telling us to step up our spiritual game.
The Christian athlete understands that they are the clay and God is the master potter. In this view, sport is a tool God uses on the spinning wheel to shape us—in a way that He deems best—to help us become more like Him.
Wins, losses, injuries, benchings, and championships are all different ways He is trying to help us look more and more like Jesus. This does not mean they are void of emotion when things don’t go how they want in their sport. They give themselves the freedom and permission to be upset or frustrated. But they also have a wide-angle lens of perspective that allows them to snap out of it more quickly than others.
They see sport as one of the primary ways they live out Colossians 3:23.
Colossians 3:23 is such a challenging verse. It says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” God wants our complete focus to be on Him in everything we do. Brushing our teeth? Yes. Cleaning the dishes? Yes. Studying for a test? Yes. Everything.
For the athlete, most of their time is spent thinking about, practicing, preparing, and playing their sport. The Christian athlete understands that God has uniquely gifted them and attempts to bring an “Audience of One” type mentality to every part of their athletic experience. This does not mean they will always do this perfectly, but they keep trying daily to leverage their sport in a way that gives them more of God instead of settling for the quick approval of others.
They see sport as a mission field.
17:26-27 says, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.”
This verse reminds us that God puts us where we are for a purpose. We’re not an accident, and the state, city, street, and address we reside in are not an accident. The Christian athlete understands that God has gifted them and placed them uniquely. They see their teammates and coaches as a mission field. They view them not as projects but as image-bearers of God, desperately needing to know God desires to be in a relationship with them. Their sports gifts them the opportunity to rub shoulders daily with the very people God wants them to influence. And they take advantage of it.
They constantly ask themselves hard questions.
Christian athletes understand the power that sport has to control their lives. They prioritize holding the mirror up to themselves, asking hard questions, and having the self-awareness and accountability to answer honestly. They ask questions like:
• Is sport becoming an idol in my life?
• Do I see myself primarily as a child of God or as an athlete?
• When my teammates and coaches experience me, are they seeing someone trying to follow Jesus?
• Is my sport consuming all of my thought life?
• Am I allowing margin in my life for God to speak to me?
These questions are complex, but redeemed athletes dare to face them head-on. They answer them understanding that God gives them grace for still being a work in process. Christian athletes probably have a trusted person who can process tough questions these tough questions regularly.
Their prayer life reflects kingdom priorities.
Is it ok to pray for success in sports? A Christian athlete has a prayer life that ventures beyond themselves and pleads for the good of others as well. They have a maturing understanding of what God wants through consistent time in the Bible, and they make an effort to ask God for grace and mercy to align their lives with His will.
Their prayer life is not perfect. They do not always say the “right” things. But the redeemed athlete knows the privilege of having unlimited access to the God of the universe—and they take advantage of it. They do this not because they have to or because they know it’s what they are supposed to do, but because they genuinely love God and value their relationship with Him above all else.
Christ gave everything to give us the chance to be on His team. While we can freely accept the gift of salvation, being on Jesus’ team invites us to live a life that his honoring to Him and will bring Him glory. This is our part on His team. When great athletes play for a coach they respect and admire, it’s easy to do everything possible to succeed and accomplish His goals.