From the Pulpit: Sports lessons are life lessons

Pastor Dan Deardoff, Blessed Redeemer Lutheran Church

My wife and I like to take our dog on walks around the outside of Brandon’s ballparks and the football stadium. As we round the stadium, I always pause and read the years of the state championships and runner-up years posted there. I can only imagine the pride students on those teams will feel for years to come. At reunions it provides fodder for sharing memories. “Remember when you made that incredible tackle/touch down/last minute basket/goal, and how we celebrated afterwards?” Sports make memories for a lifetime, for the fans who watch the game and the ones who compete. 

No doubt about it, Brandon is known for its athletics, and that’s not an entirely bad thing to be known for. Sports can teach our youth respect for the rules, integrity, and fair play. But if there isn’t a spiritual lesson learned from sports, parents will find out their children are only getting half the benefit out of sports that they could be getting. 

For instance, sports teach teamwork. There really is no place for grandstanding or showing off, no matter how talented the athlete. None of those state championships were won by one person. In learning teamwork, the emphasis shifts from “me” to “we.” In the same way, Christians acknowledge that Christ is our Savior, our head, and we are the body. Romans 4:4-5 says, “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to the others.”   

When done properly, sports teach self-discipline and setting goals. This lesson easily translates to the Christian life, because even though we are not saved by keeping the 10 commandments or perfect self-discipline, once we are saved by grace we keep working on holy living as a way to say “thank you” to God. Phil. 4:13b-14 says, “one thing I do, forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ.” Then at the end of our lives we can say like St. Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” (2 Tim.4:7). 

One of the best lessons to be learned from sports is one I learned from a television show, where the main character said, “Remember, sports only last a season, no matter how long that season is.” Our life on earth is short, and sports can help us remember that. One day, championships will be forgotten, so St. Paul urges us in 1 Cor. 9:25 to not compete for a crown that won’t last, but to desire the crown God gives that lasts forever, the crown of life. 

Walking around the silent stadium at night, I can almost hear the cheers from past games I attended there. This is like the Christian life, where we are asked to imagine the saints who went before us cheering us on in the race of faith to heaven. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin which so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God,” (Hebrew 12:1-2). Reflect on these lessons at your next sporting event.


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