Disclaimer:“Football” as used in this post refers to American football—not soccer—however the majority of concepts are applicable to most team sports.
There are many parallels between a hard-fought football game and living the Christian life the way God intended.Here are a few examples.
Fundamentals~Who practices the fundamentals of football more than others?Professional football players—those who already are the best in their field!Who wins the Super Bowl?Usually the team which executes the fundamentals the best!“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit,in faith, in purity.Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.Take heed to yourself and to doctrine.Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Timothy 4:12-16).
Team Sport~A great football team is made of very good offense, defense, and special teams.It is extremely hard to be a “Lone Ranger Christian,” but more importantly God never intended that. We are to gain support from one another—with various spiritual gifts and positions to play.We are also told to have fellowship with God the Father (1 John 1:3), Jesus Christ the Son of God (1 Corinthians 1:9, 1 John 1:3), the Holy Spirit of God (Philippians 2:1, 2 Corinthians 13:14), and with our fellow Christians (Philippians 3:1-6).
Coaching~We all need to be taught and mentored.We all need regular encouragement.“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20).God intends for us to seek Godly counsel.The most important counsel is the Word of God and the Spirit of God.“Your servant meditates on Your statutes.Your testimonies also are my delight and my counselors” (Psalm 119:23b-24). “Exhort one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13a).
Bursts Of Activity~In football only a small part of the total game time involves demanding physical action.In the Christian life only a small part of our time demands our full spiritual strength.The time between burst of activities should be used for rest and preparation for the next skirmish.“In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience” (1 Peter 3:15-16a).
The “Big Play” Concept~In most football games (and other team sports) only 2-4 plays make all the difference between winning or losing.As team members approach the line of scrimmage they never know if this will be one of those big plays.Defensively will the ball carrier come right at them?If so, will they be able to successfully stop him?Offensively will this be the play that breaks the game open?“Be sober, be vigilant; becauseyour adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). “A small mistake can outweigh much wisdom and honor” (Ecclesiastes 10:1, TLB).
A Game Of Individual Battles ~Like any war or team sport the Christian fight is made up of individual soldiers or teammates taking action one play at a time.You may lose some individual battles but you keep on fighting because there is a game/war to win.Consider for example the testimony of the Apostle Paul regarding some of his individual skirmishes: “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakednessbesides the other things, what comes upon me daily” (2 Corinthians 11:24-28a).
Injuries Occur~In the Christian life, just like in football, injuries occur.In both cases they sometimes come from our own teammates.Football players don’t quit in those situations and neither should we.“We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going” (2 Corinthians 4:9b, TLB).
Rules & Consequences~In football penalties imposed for an individual infraction hurts the overall team effort and sometimes the team reputation.In the Christian life the consequences of disobedience to God’s commands hurt the overall Christian effort and sometimes seriously damage the reputation of Jesus Christ and His Church. Remember this key principle:While you cannot change God’s character you can damage His reputation!“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men.The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him’” (Acts 5:29-32).
Play To Win~The primary objective of any game is to win.“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize?Run in such a way that you may obtain it.And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty.Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Let Down After Victory~How many times have we observed a football team getting defeated by a low-caliber team which they should have easily beaten?In a high percentage of the time these situations occur following a big victory over a difficult opponent.The same is true in the Christian life—it is so easy to lower our guard following a spiritual victory.We see this in the life of a number of Biblical characters.Perhaps most notable we even see this same pattern in life of our Lord as Satan goes on the attack.Immediately following His baptism He was driven out into the wilderness to be tempted (Matthew 3:13-4:11).However our Lord did not let down.
Spectator To Player Ratio~Someone has quipped that football games are a paradox since there are thousands of fans resting in the stands who desperately need exercise and only a few exhausted players on the field who desperately need rest.Unfortunately the same can be said about the Christian Army.Our Lord needs more individuals to get out on the front lines of the most important game of all—the game of life! “I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you... For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:6-7). “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
Closing Comment~True team players do not want to let their coaches, teammates, or fans down.In the Christian life our actions should cause our enemies and their fans to respect us (even though they may not be rooting for us), encourage our fans (fellow believers), our spiritual leaders (mentors, pastors), and most of all bring honor to our Head Coach.“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be save” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33).
Additional Note: If you enjoyed this post you might want to read a prior ALN post entitled “The Divine Sport” (October 8, 2014).
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