Sports in the Bible

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Many people see the Bible as an ancient document that has no relevance to our lives today.  The wise King Solomon knew better though.  He said: “what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  While the specifics may have changed (i.e. technology, customs etc.), in general people have not changed considerably.  Humans seem to have always had a desire to play and compete.  In fact, the Bible makes frequent references to athletic endeavors such as running, and even combat sports such as boxing.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

If you have a strong desire to play sports and compete, you can accept this as something God has placed on your heart, rather than some secular, unholy thing.  We are called to be excellent, and the way we conduct ourselves in our athletic pursuits can actually bring honor to God.  In this letter that the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, he instructed them saying: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Paul says that we are to run in such a way as to get a prize.  He was not concerned about prizes that do not last, like medals and trophies which we will not be able to take with us after our death, but rather eternal prizes such as a place in heaven with Jesus if we accept him into our hearts, and the heavenly rewards he promises his faithful servants.

Are you running in a way today that is pleasing to the Lord, or are you running aimlessly?  Ironically, even if you have very specific, well-planned-out athletic goals, you may still be running aimlessly if God is not the one at the core of those plans.  While Paul uses the analogy of athletics in his writings, including winning a prize, sports in themselves are of no value to God.  Like everything else he gives us, whether that be wealth or possessions, the only value is in what we do with them.  Do we use what God has given us to glorify him, or ourselves?  Do you use sports to glorify him?  Do you use the talents God has given you selfishly or selflessly?  If you are using your talents selfishly then you are running aimlessly.  God has prepared good works in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10), and if you are not consulting him and offering up everything you have and do to him, then you will miss out on those “good works”, and you will instead run your own race – which he defines as running aimlessly.

Have a chat today with the most gracious coach you’ll ever meet – your father in heaven.   Tell God you’re ready to run this race of life in a new, and powerful way.  Let him know today that you are ready to run the racecourse that he has set out for you, rather than the one you are trying to mark out for yourself.  “Run in such a way as to get the prize”.

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