When I was younger, I was involved in many athletic activities and participated on various sports teams. Overall, it was very beneficial physically, as well as helping to shape and strengthen positive character qualities. But I was completely unaware of the deeper purpose of sports: Athletics are to serve in understanding and growing in the Christian life, and are to be done for the glory of God. For example, consider these words from the Apostle Paul as he points out some of the benefits of athletics and how they can serve the Christian life:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.—1 Corinthians 9:24-27, ESV So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.—1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV
It is very easy for us and our children to get swept up in the excitement and popularity of sports and athletics. Often times though, we fail to properly use our children's athletic involvement as a means of pointing them God-ward. There is even the danger of having sports become a master over their lives instead of a servant in their lives. How can you discern where your child's heart is in relation to his or her sports involvement? How about sitting down together and discussing these questions:
- Is my participation in sports keeping me from things that are more important?
- Do I skip church for practices and competitions?
- What motivates my desire to play and compete in this sport?
- Do I get angry when my family interrupts my sports schedule?
- Do I give the credit for my ability to God? Do I turn the focus off myself and to God?
- Do I encourage other players? Do I help them be successful, even if I must be less successful?
- Is my participation serving to build my character in terms of godliness?
Lesson 26 in the curriculum Your Word is Truth is focused on how sport and athletics should serve us in understanding and growing in the Christian faith.
Another helpful piece is a segment Al Mohler included in The Briefing recently, entitled: "Are Sports Taking Over the Family?: Some Christian Considerations for the Role of Children’s Sports for the Family."
"We recognize that there's a limited amount of time, there's a limited stewardship of priorities, and by the way, we eventually show what our priorities are by the decisions we make," he says. "If we have our kids on these sports teams, on the Lord's day all the time and not in church, we are very clearly establishing what our priorities are." Hear the audio or read the transcript here (in the third segment).