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Competition/Sports, Gospel Centricity

Sports and Idolatry – In Part 1,  Part 2 an Part 3 of “How do you know when sports are an idol?”, I have tried to make this sportsidol-01-300x300connection and equip you to deal with this idolatry. I contend that three ideas are important to embrace when discussing sports and idolatry. They are


1) Assume sports are an idol 


2) Examine our deep emotions around sports – especially our anger 


3) Own the passions of our heart – especially for our own glory


In this post, I want to unpack the third idea – Own the passions of our heart – especially for our own glory.


When I examine the deeper emotions surrounding my sports, one of the things I find when I go beneath even the deep beliefs in my heart is a passionate drive to excel or win. If I probe around about that longing, I discover this longing to excel is really a longing for glory – for greatness and the recognition by others of that greatness.


This is where it gets both interesting and hard. If I am really honest, even as a Christ follower this longing for glory is not very often about God’s glory but instead is very often about my glory. I want what winning and sports’ achievements bring from our culture – the respect, the honor, the admiration, the trophies – or, in other words, the glory, my glory.


It is hard to acknowledge this because to do so shows the self-centeredness of my heart – the orientation of my longings toward me.


It is interesting to think about this orientation in light of God’s original design in Creation and the corruption from the Fall. We were created with glory, the glory of being made in the image of God, to represent God before all of creation. This greatness was bestowed on mankind by God and was intrinsic. We were to express this intrinsic glory as we moved in the fulfillment of the Dominion Mandate – to be fruitful and multiply and subdue the earth. At this point, the orientation of our hearts’ longings was toward God and his glory.


However, in our pursuit to be “like God” without God, to experience the shalom of the Garden while being morally autonomous, in the Fall we sinned and lost our glory. We now “fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)


One of the results was to turn the orientation of our hearts away from God and toward other things and ultimately toward ourselves. Paul says it this way in Romans 1:25 – “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever to be praised. Amen.” Paul is saying we worship or look to other things, including sports, rather to God for the fulfillment of our heart’s desires.


But he also is saying more. He is saying our hearts got reoriented. No, actually they got broken. Not broken like in being hurt but broken as in not working right. They are drawn away from God and to “idols” to satisfy these deep longings. When I understand this reality, I recognize that possibly the greatest struggle in dealing with the idol of sports is the struggle I have with ME – my self-centeredness, my selfish orientation to my heart’s longings, and in particular my pursuit of my own glory. At the core of diagnosing the idols of my heart in sports is this acknowledgement. My heart is broken – foolishly oriented to other things than God in my pursuit of glory.


Now the good news of the Gospel is that God not only forgives of all this idolatry, he also gives us a new heart, a heart of flesh that is alive to God, replacing our broken one, the cold, lifeless heart of stone. (See Ezekiel 36: 22-32) He makes it possible for us to experience not only our behavior to be modified in our sports, but for our hearts and the behavior they drive in our sports to be transformed.


This transformation doesn’t happen all at once. It is a process but this transformation process can be actuated in the exposing environment of sports if we move toward confession (acknowledgement of wrongdoing and the deep lies and self-centeredness driving us), repentance (the turning away from wrongdoing, the lies and the self-centeredness at work), and faith (embracing the truth in the place of those lies and moving in God-centeredness) in our sports, all the while asking God to enact this transformation of our hearts that he alone can bring about.


While the disease of sports idolatry is never fully overcome in this life, we can make progress in stemming the spread and actually reducing the impact.


So for the glory of God in redeemed sports, lets agree to 1) assume sports are an idol 2) examine our deep emotions around sports 3) own the passions of our heart. For God has promised –  “Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I have made you, you are my servant…I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” Isaiah 44:21,22  “I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your idols.”  Ezekiel 36:25

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Competition/Sports, Gospel Centricity

Sports and Idolatry – In Part 1 and Part 2 of “How do you know when sports are an idol?”, I have sportsidol-01-300x300tried to make this connection and equip you to deal with this idolatry. I contend that three ideas are important to embrace when discussing sports and idolatry. They are


1) Assume sports are an idol


2) Examine our deep emotions around sports – especially our anger


3) Own the passions of our heart – especially for our own glory


In this post, I want to unpack the second idea – Examine our deep emotions around sports – especially our anger.


We all know it – you can’t hide your heart on the field, the court, or whatever environment you compete in. Sports cut us open and what is in us comes spilling out at the referees, the players on the opposing team and our own team, coaches, even at ourselves. This exposing quality is one of the reasons I love sports.


While this reality is apparent, what is interesting is that I don’t find a lot of people who probe into what is underneath those thoughts and emotions, especially our emotions.


And there is always something underneath our emotions. Emotions are never independent. They are always generated by beliefs.


Let’s take anger. It was Larry Crabb, Christian psychologist, who first alerted me to the fact that anger is the result of a blocked goal. It is my emotional response to the belief that the goal I am pursuing is being blocked. (A goal is something I believe I want or need to have and pursue.) When we don’t get what we want, when our efforts to achieve our goal are stymied, we get angry. The deeper the demand for that goal, and the deeper the resulting anger when it is blocked.


Now take that understanding to the athletic field.


A coach gets really angry at an official’s call. Why? The official blocked the goal of the coach. What is the goal? While I am not sure, what I do know by the emotion is that, whatever the goal, it is important to the coach.


The depth of the emotion, whether expressed or not, is determined by the depth of the goal, the importance of that goal to the person. When I see deep anger, whether in me or others, I know the goal is really important – it is something I really need to have, have to have.


Now let’s tie that emotion to idolatry. Remember our definition of an idol – “If I have that, then I will be happy, valued, significant, etc.” I think I have to have “that” and “that” becomes an idol.


For most of us who play, watch or coach sports, the “that” is winning. (This is not the exclusive “that”, for even “having a good time” can be a “that” – a thing I have to have. Winning is just the “that” I will address now.) Therefore, when we don’t win, when someone gets in the way of our winning (including ourselves), we get angry at whoever or whatever got in the way. Anger reveals the reality of the idolatry in our sports, in this case the idolatry of winning. The deeper the anger, the deeper the idolatry, the more important the idol.


Next time you are watching, playing, coaching and you feel deep emotion, acknowledge it. Don’t run from it. Press into it by asking yourself, “Why am I feeling this?” Look for the beliefs that drive the emotion.


If it is anger, ask yourself, “What is the goal that is being blocked?” “Why is that goal so important that I feel this anger so deeply?”


The beliefs that you find underneath the emotions reveal the possible idols of our hearts. Acknowledge to God the “thats” (like winning) that you find, that were revealed through your emotions like anger. This is confession.


Turn away from, say no to these beliefs that take good things (like winning – a good desire but a bad goal) and make them ultimate things, making them idols in our hearts. This is repentance.


This begins the process of dealing with our idolatry of sports. In Part 4, I want to look at how deep this process of confession and repentance needs to go if we really want to break the tie between idolatry and our sports.

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Competition/Sports, Gospel Centricity

Sports and Idolatry – hopefully you are connecting these two ideas.sportsidol-01-300x300


In Part 1, I said there are three important ideas we need to embrace in order to diagnose the idolatry of sports. They are:


1) Assume sports are an idol 


2) Examine our deep emotions around sports – especially our anger 


3) Own the passions of our heart – especially for our own glory.


In this post, I want to unpack the first idea – Assume sports are an idol.


To begin, let’s go back to the coach, who, when asked if he had a problem with sports as an idol, quickly and emphatically responded, “NO!!” The coach seemed to assume that wasn’t even a possibility by his response. This denial goes far beyond just this coach, however.


Tim Keller counters to such a contention or assumption in Counterfeit Gods –


“I am not asking whether or not you have rival gods. I assume that we all do; they are hidden in every one of us…. In Romans 1:21-25, Paul shows that idolatry is not only one sin among many, but what is fundamentally wrong with the human heart.”


Since the fall, our hearts have been idol factories, seeking something, many things, other than God to fulfill its longings for meaning, love, significance, security, and, what is often left off this list, glory. We were made for glory. We lost glory at the fall (remember Romans 3:23 – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”). We pursue glory in “all the wrong places” to fill that void.


Sports today demonstrate one of the most often used and clearest methods for establishing this lost glory. We strive to become champions, winners, first place, the best, the highest – whether it is in world class arenas for Olympians and Super Bowls or in neighborhood courts for a community league or a pick up game.


However, rather than looking into our sports for the reality of this idolatry because of what is “fundamentally wrong with the human heart,” we say things like, “I am just competitive,” or “I am just playing hard” and deny the reality of our idolatry.


When we won’t even consider the possibility that our sports are an idol, we live out what God says of idolaters in Isaiah 44. In verse 13-20, God uses a carpenter as an example. The carpenter takes what God has provided (wood) and uses part of it for his job, part of it as fuel to warm himself, and part of it to cook his food, all within the purposes of God.


Yet, rather than stopping there, the carpenter then takes the rest and makes “a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me; you are my god.” (verse 17)


Now, the carpenter doesn’t really understand that he is doing something wrong, nor does he contemplate the possibility. “Their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see, and their minds closed so they cannot understand. No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say….’Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?’” (verse 18-20)


In the sports world, we don’t see, we don’t stop to think and ask, we won’t even ask, “Is this thing I play, watch, or coach an idol?”


So will you ask –
“Are my sports an idol?” with the assumption that it probably is an idol? 


Will you allow God to show you how you have taken his provision, sports, and not stopped with the design that God had in mind, but have fashioned it into a place for your glory, not his?


Will you ask God to open your eyes, to give you understanding, to give you the courage to ponder and be honest and ask the question, “Is this thing I play an idol?”


If you will, you have made the first great step to dealing with the idolatry of sports. We will look at the next step in tomorrow post – How do you know when your sports are an idol? Part 3

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Competition/Sports, Gospel Centricity

A fellow sports minister had a recent conversation with a coach where the sports minister asked, “Do you think you have a problem with sports being an idol?” The coach quickly and emphatically replied, “No!”sportsidol-01-300x300


What is interesting about his response is that this coach had recently had several emotional and difficult confrontations surrounding his coaching.

This situation prompted me to ask, “How do you know when sports or a sport is an idol?”

You might be wondering, “What kind of question is that?” thinking that idols are those things in foreign cultures that people visit and bow down to.

While the Bible mentions making objects into idols, God doesn’t limit the definition of idols to just those lifeless statues. Consider the following from Tim Keller (from his book Counterfeit Gods):

“What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give….. An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.” Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods

According to Keller, “anything can be an idol.” Even sports.

Just take out the key words to that definition and you’re left with:

  • absorbs my heart and imagination
  • gives my life meaning
  • gives me value
  • makes me feel significant
  •  

Put “sports” before each statement on that list, read them before a group of athletes, and ask “Which of these statements are true for you?” The answers would quickly show the power of sports to become an idol. Ask a whole culture like ours and you would not only see how powerful but how pervasive the idolatry of sports is.

More importantly, ask ourselves, “Which of these statements is true for me?”

  • Sports (or a sport) absorbs my heart and imagination
  • Sports (or a sport) gives my life meaning
  • Sports (or a sport) gives me value
  • Sports (or a sport) makes me feel significant
  •  

Just pause for a moment. Think about what is going on in your heart. How are you reacting to this article? Your reaction is important for you in diagnosing the extent of the problem.

Why? Because, if we are going to diagnose the reality of idols in our hearts, we must:

1) Assume sports is an idol 

2) Examine our deep emotions around sports – especially our anger 

3) Own the passions of our heart – especially for our own glory.

For more on these three points, go to “How Do You Know When Your Sports are an Idol?”  Part 2.

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Gospel Centricity, Ministry Development

“If you were to die tonight, do you know for certain you would go to heaven?”

conversation-300x200

While this question may be helpful in the course of a spiritual dialogue, it is a rather awkward way to begin such a dialogue.  Tim Chester & Steve Timmis talk about this reality in their book Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission.

Many of us know how to answer the question, “What must I do to be saved?” But we do not know how to begin a conversation about Jesus. Our only hope is a crass, awkward change of direction, like crunching the gears in your car.

If you are someone who has felt this awkwardness, you may wonder, “Does it have to be so awkward?  Is there a way to go about starting a spiritual conversation in a more natural way?”

Spiritual conversations are like conversations in general. There is a natural progression of depth and intimacy. When we meet someone, we might ask questions like “What do you do?” or “Where do you live?”  This feels natural. It would be awkward to start that meeting off with questions like “How do you feel about the situation in Iraq?”  or “Why did you marry the person you married?” It seems awkward because the conversation moved into a deeper level of intimacy and vulnerability too fast.

This natural progression can be outlined in the following list of areas of discussion and questions for those areas:

Impersonal Facts – “How did the Panthers do this past week?” or “What happened yesterday in Iraq?”

Personal Facts – “Where do you live?” or “What do you do for a vocation or in your free time?”

Opinions – “Why do you think the Rams cut Michael Sams?” or  “How do you think we should handle the situation in Iraq?”

Feelings – “How did you feel when you heard another American had been beheaded?”

Identity – “How do you view yourself at the core of your being?”

As you move down the list, the level of vulnerability and intimacy increases – from little or none to deep and complete. This progression normally takes time – lots of it – before the trust is built in the relationship and this depth seems natural.

Now think about that list and where the gospel speaks to people. It tells them they were made in the image of God, yet that image has been marred to the point that they are now sinners. Because of their sin, they are separated from God and there is nothing they can do about it. However, God, wanting to restore that broken and marred image, sent Jesus Christ, His Son, to die and redeem us so that restoration could take place.

These are deeply personal and intimate issues. Issues dealing with personal and deep feelings and that person’s identity. No wonder it seems so awkward if we abruptly bring up the gospel. We are jumping down many levels of vulnerability and intimacy.

So what do you do instead?

  1. I have found that you just go through the progression. Start with asking more HOW and WHY questions in your conversations.  They will flow naturally after you start with the WHAT and the WHERE questions. For example, imagine you have just met someone and you ask, “Where do you work?”  They tell you and you follow up with the question, “How did you get into that field?”  Or if you talk about how long someone has lived in your town, you could ask, “Why did you move here?”  The HOW and the WHY questions gives the person a chance to tell you something of their story.
  2. Drop a level first and then invite the person you are talking with to join you.  For instance, you may be talking about the Iraq situation.  You have asked them, “How do you think the USA should handle this situation?”  They have given their answer.  You could say something like, “I find myself really afraid or feeling insecure with all the conflict in the world today.  How do you find yourself impacted by all this?”
  3. Talk about how you deal with your feelings, struggles, and problems.  As you discuss these feelings, it is natural to say something like, “When I am afraid like I am about the world situation, I find great comfort in God’s overarching authority over all of life.”  Tell them vulnerably where Christ and the gospel speak to you at the feelings and identity levels.  As you share your individual stories and deeper vulnerability, you will find you have natural opportunities to talk about your relationship with Christ.  You could also ask your friend, “How do you handle that insecurity or fear?”


While using the word natural to describe these conversations,  I don’t mean to imply there isn’t some angst even when it happens like this. Any conversation at this level with the possibility of speaking about eternal things is very serious. There is a soberness about these kinds of conversations that reflects the significance of the truths being discussed no matter how long you have known the person and how much trust and vulnerability exist.

Also, while using the word natural,  I don’t mean to imply that conversations like these aren’t supernatural.  Only God can open the heart of a person to the truths of the gospel. It also takes God’s works  to open the heart of someone to us.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.” With this hope in mind, pray for open hearts and start the progression.

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Gospel Centricity, Personal Growth

Batman. Superman. William Wallace. Indiana Jones.
 Batman

All great heroes brought to life in the movies! (When you think of a hero, who comes to your mind?)

I longed to be one of those heroes as a child. In fourth grade, one of my recurrent daydreams was that I would rescue my class from a dangerous criminal. As he entered the classroom, I would swoop down from the top of the lockers in the room and knock him down and out. Then, as I stood triumphant over him, I would bask in the cheers for their “hero”.

I gave up on that dream as I ran face to face with my inadequacies and brokenness. No longer would I be the hero, could I step in and do what heroes do, but, none the less, I longed for a hero to step in – SAVE  THE DAY! Many times as I felt needy, helpless, and even hopeless, when I looked beneath those emotions, there I found this longing for a hero.

I don’t think I am alone. Neither does Hollywood. That is why every great popular movie has, as one of its core elements, a hero or heroes to come and save the day!

I bring this up to do two things.

First of all, I bring it up for you to acknowledge this longing in your heart. It is there, maybe buried deep below the disappointments, false hopes, and broken dreams, but it there.

I also bring it up to point that longing to the Greatest Hero of all time – Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is many things – Savior, Son of God, Son of Man, Messiah, Prince of Peace. He is also The Great Hero.

He stepped into The Great Story – the Gospel – and saved the day. Creation was corrupt. We were broken and disconnected – from each other and God. Into this dire situation he came.

–       As King – to restore (fix the brokenness around us)

–       As the New Israel – to empower (fix the brokenness within us)

–       As the Word become Flesh – to connect (with the God we left so long ago but need so much for today)

As such, he did what all heroes do – SAVED the DAY.  To hear more about these ideas, check out Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge for a fresh look at this hero.

In the meantime, when you think of Jesus, will you start to think of him as the Hero you have always longed for, we have always longed for?  He saved the day and has been saving it since.

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Gospel Centricity

As Christians, we tend to compartmentalize aspects of our lives. Going to church, reading the Bible, and praying are all “spiritual” things while the day-to-day activities we engage in like work, sports, meals, etc. are “secular.” No matter how long you’ve been a Christian, I suspect you struggle with compartmentalization. God wants us to have a more holistic view though. We know this from 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 

This is a significant part of Cede Sports’ ministry–helping churches embrace sports as a way to glorify God and not compartmentalize them.

 

This is why I love quotes like this from Jared Wilson’s book, Gospel Wakefulness:

One of the attendant aims of missional evangelicalism is to challenge the compartmentalizing of the Christian faith that we see within the Western church. We are fantastic at itemizing our schedules, and even if we don’t assign God a very large bracket, we are constantly remorseful that we “haven’t made much time for him.” While such compartmentalizing — as if “time with God” can or should be hermetically sealed off from everything else — is a natural symptom of our culture and environment, it also reflects a bad theology.

The truth is, the day does not belong to us. It is not our day to do with as we please. We serve a sovereign God. He created the end from the beginning, knows our future exhaustively, and is firmly in control. He made our days and they belong to him. As such, isn’t it a bit arrogant to begin with the idea that each day is ours and then worry about fitting God in? Instead, we should work at the humble awe of knowing all of our moments, every millisecond, waking or sleeping, are perfectly accounted for within the economy of heaven.

Let us stake the flag of Christ’s kingdom into the soil of our first waking moment. Drink your coffee when you get up, of course, but drink it to the glory of God. Then carry on in this way all day, no matter the task, be it menial or notable, so that each day may be a living prayer that God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is what it means to live a gospel-saturated life: it means being so conscious of the greatness of the gospel that changing diapers or cutting the grass is as much an act of worship as singing a praise chorus in a church service….

Now let’s apply that to sports. To paraphrase Wilson – “This is what it means to live gospel-saturated sports– it means being so conscious of the greatness of the gospel that playing sports are as much an act of worship as singing a praise chorus in a church service.” Think for a moment. “Is that the way you view your sports? Do you really believe and live out this idea that your sports are for God and an act of worship or do you slip back into the mindset, that I often do, that your sports are just for you?”

Back to Wilson –

Jesus Christ is Lord over my heart, and he is Lord over my hands, and he is Lord over what I do with these hands, and he is Lord over what I say in my heart while I’m doing it. In submitting to the lordship of Christ, then, I do not treat washing dishes (or playing sports – my addition) as wasting time I could be spending doing something “meaningful,” but rather as a service to those who eat in my home (or those I play with – my addition) … and as an offering of thanksgiving to God that I have food to eat, dishes to eat it on, and running water inside my home to clean with (as well as places to play, a body to play with, teammates and opponents to play with – my addition).

Do you get the picture? This is gospel-saturated, gospel-centered sports. Nothing short of this vision is what is needed for the redemption of the broken sports so prevalent today.

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Evangelism/Discipleship, Gospel Centricity

The gospel produces in Christians both humility and boldness.  Read what Tim Keller says:
 

“When the gospel ‘comes home’-humbling and affirming you, it turns every believer into a natural evangelist…Evangelism happens because of a) the humility of the gospel. The gospel (unlike religious moralism) produces people who are not disdainful and contemptuous towards those who disagree with them. Also, it happens through b) the affirmation of the gospel. Because of the reality and joy of Christ’s love, we are not as concerned what others think. The gospel brings a gentle boldness.”

“The gospel makes us neither self-confident nor self-disdaining, but both bold and humble at once. To the degree I am still functionally earning my worth through performance (i.e. to the degree I am still functioning in works-righteousness), to that degree I will be either operating out of superiority or inferiority. Why! Because if I am saved by my works, then I can either be confident but not humble (if I am living up) or humble but not confident (if I am not living up). In other words, apart from the gospel, I will be forced to be superior or inferior or to swing back and forth or to be one way with some people and another way with others. I am continually caught between these two ways, because of the nature of my self image.

So the gospel humbles me before anyone, telling me I am a sinner saved only by grace. But it also emboldens me before anyone, telling me I am loved and honored by the only eyes in the universe that really count. So the gospel gives a boldness and a humility that do not “eat each other up” but can increase together.” Link

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The “Minnesota Miracle.”  Alabama’s overtime victory over Georgia. Georgia’s overtime win over Oklahoma. New England’s late drive to defeat Jacksonville. The Eagles defense holding off the Falcons on their final drive.   


These are just a few of the recent games that illustrate this idea – “It could have gone either way.”


In each of those games, there were great plays that led to those victories. A great catch here. An acrobatic defensive play there. Without those, the results probably would have been completely different.  


“It could have gone either way.” It is one of the things I love about sports.  


In that reality, we tend to focus on those great plays. Understandably. Those plays draw our attention and admiration for all that it takes to make them a possibility – like hard work, discipline, and teamwork.  


However, I want to shift the focus of our attention. Rather than just those great plays, I want you to consider for a moment the number of little things that led to the necessity of such great plays.  


For instance, If the Saints make their third down conversion in the previous series and score a touchdown, how would that have impacted the Vikings on the final play calling and the Saints on their defense? Would there still have been a “Minnesota Miracle”? If Alabama true freshman Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t take the 16 yard sack on the previous play, would the same play that resulted in the 41-yard score been called? Would Alabama have still won their fifth National Championship under Nick Saban? If certain penalties in a number of these games hadn’t been missed, would the dramatic events have even been a possibility?


What I am hoping to point out is that it is not just the great plays that make a difference. It is also a lot of little things, some seemingly insignificant at the time, that push the games toward such a conclusion.  


I bring this up because, in several of these games, players who made those great plays brought God into the equation.  


Here is Vikings receiver Tyler Diggs on the ‘Minnesota Miracle,’ “I give everything to God,” Stefon Diggs told Fox Sports. He thanked his coaches and teammates for giving him the opportunity, then pointed to God, “God did the rest, He put me here. And I’m just thankful.” Afterwards, Case Keenum, the quarterback who threw the pass, said, “God is so good.”

https://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/entertainment/2018/january/god-is-so-good-meet-the-backup-qb-who-led-the-vikings-to-a-stunning-win-and-still-puts-jesus-first


Here is Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on the overtime victory:


In this interview, Tua says, “You know, with God all things are possible! That’s what happened tonight.”


If you watched the Georgia/Oklahoma game, Georgia quarterback, Jake Fromm, said basically the same thing in his interview after the game. So did Eagles quarterback, Nick Foles, after their win over the Falcons.


Now consider these two ideas together: 

The game could have gone either way based on not just big plays but on many “little things,” God being credited for the victory – either implied or specifically stated.


When you listen to these players and consider the teeter-totter way that these games could have gone, how do you factor God’s involvement in the game? Do you see God orchestrating the events for the winners as some of these players imply or do you chalk it up to pure coincidence, just a random series of events?


I bring this up not so much to settle the question of “Does God care who wins?” but to ask you to consider the question more deeply. (The answer is more important than you think.)


As I have considered the question and asked others to do the same, I have found troubling implications to the “No” answer and to the “Yes” answer, ones that either trivialize sports or God.  


I also bring this up because I have found this to be a very personal issue, not just something theoretical to be argued about in bars or on sports talk shows. To illustrate this point, ask the question, “Does God care who wins?” at your next lunch or breakfast. If your experience is like mine, the conversation will quickly get very lively.  


If you are tracking with me and wrestle with this question, maybe even unsure of your answer to the question, “Does God care who wins?” or want to examine more carefully the troubling implications of either of the “No” or “Yes” answer, I would point you to a book I wrote last summer titled Does God Care Who Wins?


Here are a couple of reactions from readers:


“I received the book yesterday and read it cover to cover last night! Thank you so much, I loved it…Appreciated the blend of story-telling, scripture, deep theological truth, specific quotes and stories from athletes and practical implications. Really well done and a really helpful resource that I can see lots of uses for.”  

Collegiate Soccer Coach


“I finished “Does God Care Who Wins?” on the plane Sunday… could not put it down…..Seriously, you did an amazing job addressing a question asked by millions but not answered my many, and if so, not with the thought and care you did….Going to be passing this book along to family and friends for the rest of my life… so glad God had you write this.”

Businessman and Serious Golfer


“I have been an athlete and a NAIA collegiate volleyball coach who regularly and intentionally led a counter-cultural, positive, collegiate Christian sports team for 13 years. I have naively answered that question “Does God Care Who Wins?” with this answer: ‘God doesn’t care who wins. He cares about the athletes, coaches, referees and spectators at the game. He cares how we experience the game and the relationships we continue to build with those we play with, but he doesn’t impact the outcome of a game.’ 
I held that general view (with minor alterations over the years) until I read Bob’s book.  I must acknowledge that the insights Bob shared about our God, and how He cares about us, and he therefore cares about what we care about, dramatically changed my own answer to the question raised in his book title.  What a paradigm shift!”

College Professor – Health & Exercise Science


I ask you again to consider the questions, “If the game could have gone either way, what role does God play in the outcome?  Does he actually care who wins?” 



For more – Does God Care Who Wins? Is available on Amazon – http://amzn.to/2zTvb68

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Today is one of those days.

 

I don’t know about you but for me there are some days when the brokenness of the world, the loss of goodness all around me, eclipses the redemption God is authoring through His Son. When that happens, I wrestle with discouragement and feel overwhelmed with the prospects of dealing with that loss.

 

On the eve of Thanksgiving in this country, on the day when I am reminded to be thankful, I awake struggling.  

 

As I wrestle through this, I remember the Apostle Paul and his experience with this wrestling. In his letter to the Corinthians, that we call 2 Corinthians, there are two themes Paul tries to drive home – Comfort in Struggle, Strength in Weakness. With the first theme, several times in this letter, he honestly and vulnerably tells the reader of those struggles.

 

One of those places is in chapter 6 where he says – As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger…through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (verses 3-10)

 

In the middle of these verses, Paul says he is “sorrowful but always rejoicing.” When I first ran across this passage, I was intrigued by the combination of these two ideas. Paul had sorrow but not only sorrow. He rejoiced. But he didn’t just rejoice. He rejoices in the midst of his sorrow.

 

Sorrow and joy. A strange combination but one Paul says co-existed in his life. This reminder encouraged me this morning.

 

It helped me move beyond the experience of the brokenness and my discouragement. It reminded me that my experience of brokenness is not all that defines my life. Alongside that brokenness I do see the redemption Jesus Christ is bringing.

 

As I thought about this, I was reminded of

 

  • The redemption I see taking place through the movement of God in and through local churches using sports, rec, and fitness.
  • The local church leaders who see sports, rec, and fitness not as irrelevant or as an end but as a key means to glorify God.
  • The local churches who strive to glorify God by using sports, rec, and fitness as a bridge to connect and a laboratory to transform – both people and the realm of sports, rec, and fitness.
  • The local churches who even this year for the first time have picked up the tool of sports, rec, or fitness toward these ends.
  • The sports, rec, and fitness ministers who embrace gospel centricity as critical for keeping their efforts focused on this movement and ministry and avoiding the tendency toward just doing activity and running programs.
  • Those involved in the REACHgathering and especially the Foundational Partners who have this movement on their hearts.
  • The International Sports Coalition (ISC) and all who are a part of it for all their efforts to fuel this movement around the world
  • Those I have the privilege of knowing and, in some cases, journeying with who stir me with their creativity, their courage, and their determination, who in many cases have made great sacrifices to be a part of this movement but think it nothing and “count everything as loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus”

 

Jesus is making all things new. This list reminds me of that reality and enables me to be like Paul and be “sorrowful but always rejoicing.”

 

How about you? What about the movement causes you to rejoice amidst the sorrows of your life or the world around you?

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