I am often edified when I read articles about Christians who are professional athletes by vocation. Often when I discover an athlete that I didn’t know professed Christ, I will pray for them by name and the team or sport they represent (which is their mission field).
Webb Simpson, who is a golfer on the PGA, has one of the more solid understandings of Scripture than any other athlete I have read.
Recently, he was interviewed by Sean Martin of The Gospel Coalition right before golf’s first major – The Masters.
He was asked his vocation as a golfer and how that influences terms like “gifting” and “calling.” He answered it this way –
“I don’t see my gifting as unique. My gift happens to be golf, but another guy’s might be preaching and another’s teaching. The Lord spreads us out for his purposes and for our enjoyment of him. My calling isn’t to be a golfer. Like every other Christian, I’m called to participate in the Great Commission—to go and make disciples of all nations. My vocational context for fulfilling that calling happens to be golf.
“I wasn’t born to be a golfer. I was born to be a child of God. There’s a big difference in perspective when I start with that. Focusing on being a child of God, beloved by the King, makes me more focused on being effective where I am.
“I may have a bigger audience than someone else, but some of the most effective, faithful men I know are in a small area in terms of reach. They’re discipling a couple of guys, doing a great job in their home, and being faithful where they are. I think a danger for me and other people in my position is if we’re trying to reach a ton of people and rejecting the Great Commission of making disciples of a few.”
Read the rest of this interview here.
Sports fans are sometimes as entertaining as the sporting event itself.
Tune into a sporting event on T.V. and you may see a middle-aged man with his entire body painted in his favorite team’s colors. You may see a group of young people with matching T-shirts and individual letters on each shirt spelling a word that relates to an athlete or team. You may see a woman in the stands shouting profanities at the referees, the opposing team or other fans. You may see a little boy or little girl getting so emotional about their team’s loss that they are shedding tears uncontrollably.
Sports fans react in so many ways to sporting events. And many, if not most of them, only behave in these certain ways for their sports teams. They don’t behave in the same way at a wedding or family dinner.
I enjoy the creative loyalty that sports fan express, as long as it is not displeasing to the Lord in some ways (e.g., crude language on a sign, shouting vulgarities, etc.).
Every now and then, someone will criticize the enthusiasm of sports fans (especially that are Christians) and say something like this: “If only people would get as excited about the Lord Jesus Christ as they do their favorite sports team.”
I get that sports can become an idol and we can give far too much attention to man than we do God. I get that we can invest crazy amounts of money in watching sports and give very little to the Lord’s work. I get the analogy that is being used.
But frankly, when it comes to the gathering of a local church, I don’t want that same kind of sports fan loyalty and enthusiasm in the building, and I don’t believe God would either.
I don’t believe God wants church attendees heckling people on stage to try to get in the mind of someone and force them to behave in a certain manner (I Corinthians 13:5).
I don’t believe God wants church attendees to be divisive when they disagree with something said or done like a sports fan who doesn’t like the way a referee is calling a game (Titus 3:10-11).
I don’t believe God wants people attending a worship service to be dressed inappropriately for a worship service and becoming a distraction so others cannot focus on the real reason they are there (I Peter 3:3-4).
Frankly, a sports fan’s enthusiasm is not a good barometer for a worshipper of God.
I have the book In the Arena: The Promise of Sports for Christian Discipleship by David Prince on my “Most Wanted List.” Being an avid sports fan, I am always looking to encourage my soul to enjoy sports as a gracious gift of God and not an idol. This book, reviewed by Gavin Peacock of The Gospel Coalition, looks helpful.
- When you watch sports, are Christlike regardless of the outcome? (I John 2:6).
- When your mind has nothing else to think about, does it gravitate towards athletics? (Phil 4:7-8).
- Do you “break fellowship” with others who don’t cheer for your sports team? (I Cor 1:10).
- Do you choose to watch or attend sporting events on a regular basis instead of assembling with believers? (Heb 10:24-25).
- Do you identify or define yourself as a fan of a sports team or do you feel you are valuable because you are a fan of a sports team? (I Pet 2:9).
- Do you observe or watch sports at the expense of leaving important tasks unfinished? (Col 3:23-24).
- When your team loses, do you forget that sports is a gracious gift from God? (Ps 145:9).
- Are your emotions uncontrollable during sporting events or activities? (Prov 25:28).
- Are your heroes for life non-Christian athletes? (I Cor 11:1).
You can be the most influential, powerful, rich, handsome or beautiful person in the world and still be miserable. Success does not breed or equal godliness.
A modern day example of this is New England quarterback Tom Brady.
After being drafted in the 6th round of the NFL Draft and sitting out his first season, Brady has taken his Patriots to six Super Bowls, which is the most of any NFL quarterback in history. Four of those Super Bowls the Patriots have won. Brady has won two league MVP awards, been to eleven Pro Bowls and helped the Patriots win more division titles than any other team in history.
Oh, and he has also won more playoff games (twenty-two) than any other quarterback in history.
In short, Brady is a one of the greatest quarterbacks in history.
But not too long after he won his 3rd Super Bowl Title in 2004, Brady was interviewed by Steve Kroft of CBS News. One of the questions Brady was asked was this – “This whole experience – this whole upward trajectory– what have you learned about yourself? What kind of an effect does it have on you?”
Listen to this surprising answer given by Brady – “Well, I put incredible amounts of pressure on me. When you feel like you’re ultimately responsible for everyone and everything, even though you have no control over it, and you still blame yourself if things don’t go right — I mean, there’s a lot of pressure. A lot of times I think I get very frustrated and introverted, and there’s times where I’m not the person that I want to be. Why do I have three Super Bowl rings, and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, ‘Hey man, this is what is.’ I reached my goal, my dream, my life. Me, I think: God, it’s gotta be more than this. I mean this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be. I mean I’ve done it. I’m 27. And what else is there for me?”
Kroft then asked Brady what else there is and all Brady could come up with is family, friends and football.
Just because you achieve the kind of success that Brady has does not guarantee you will ever be fulfilled in life. What is clearly missing from Brady’s life is a genuine contentment in God’s work for his life. And ultimately, unless I have missed something, what is missing from his life is Jesus Christ.
Listen, you won’t find complete and total satisfaction in anything of this world. Not your career. Not your toys. Not entertainment. Not your favorite sports team. Not your children. Not your spouse. Nothing compares to the satisfaction that can only be found in communing with the Creator.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps 16:11).