We’ve all heard the jokes about how sport is the number one religion in the United States. Anyone who has lived in America for more than a few years can’t deny the fact that the four major sports leagues in our country are capable of bringing about more excitement and enthusiasm than churches in the United States. In fact, we’re seeing that more and more Americans are interested in going to football games on Sundays than church service.
Now, while this may sound discouraging to the average Christian, we shouldn’t write off sports as though it were a soulless replacement for religion. For one thing, sports have an exhilarating element that make us feel as though anything were possible, much like the inspiration that comes from God Himself. Even more, there’s a large number of faithful, outspoken Christians in our favorite sports leagues, and with the influence that sports have over our country, Christian players have the unique ability to inspire others to seek the Lord.
The Relationship Between Sports and Faith
Why is it that sports can instill a sense of wonder in us that isn’t that dissimilar to that which we feel when we reflect on God? Well, for one thing, sports show us faith at work. This is as true for the players as it is for fans themselves. Sports players have to rely heavily on faith that they’re capable of beating the other team, and when they succeed, it’s nothing short of inspiring. Similarly, sports fans put a lot of faith in their teams, believing in them wholeheartedly, even when it seems like all of the cards are stacked against them.
This reminds us of our own faith in our relationship with God. Even when something seems impossible, we are called to remember that through Him, we can do anything. In Matthew 17:20, we are told, “And He said to them, ‘Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.’” This tells us that even when something seems hopeless, faith alone can allow us to accomplish our dreams. And, whether we’re watching hockey, football, baseball or basketball, we hold on to that faith in hopes that our team will come out victorious.
So, it’s not surprising that a lot of top athletes are proud to call themselves Christians. While faith is required to defeat the opponent, are own faith is limited. Therefore, we must seek faith through God, which is limitless. Through God, we know that we can do things beyond ourselves and our human limitations.
Why Christian Representation in Sports is So Important
So, now we come to the importance of Christian representation in major sports. Our largely secular society is lacking in good Christian role models, but those who are outspoken about their faith in the sports world have a large audience that’s listening. Take Nick Foles, the former Philadelphia Eagles now Jacksonville Jaguars QB who is studying to be a pastor. Then, consider the enormous following that the Eagles has, and how many fans regularly read interviews about their favorite team players. To many, Nick Foles is a sports idol, so it’s not a reach by any means to suggest that he’s directly inspiring young fans to follow God.
There’s also Yankees player Aaron Judge who regularly takes to Twitter to share God’s word with his many fans. In fact, lots of top athletes are using social media to inspire fans with their enormous faith. And, let’s be honest – the church needs this kind of representation desperately. Church attendance numbers are dropping across America, and young people have very few Christian role models to look up to, which may at least partially explain why religion isn’t what it used to be in America. Given the incredible numbers of viewers who watch sports religiously (no pun intended), Christian players are able to reach massive numbers of fans with their message about faith.
Additionally, if your child is a sports fan, you can use their love for their team to inspire them to prioritize their faith in God. There are many Christian-themed lessons that can be derived from sports games. For instance, you can teach them about how their favorite teammates rely on faith to win a game and use that as a segue into the importance of faith as a child of God. Using sports references to teach your child about how anything can be done through faith can be an unforgettable message that will stay with them forever.
Hebrews 11:1 teaches us that “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Whether we’re trying to hit a home run or we’re trying to heal from an illness, faith is what makes all things possible. God tells us that faith gives us the assurance that our dreams will come true, even though we cannot yet see them manifest.
As We All Know, Sports and Religion Have Many Things in Common
However, if we take a deeper look, we see that sports fans can find their faith through their passion for their favorite games. This is especially the case when we have so many Christian sports superstars who are more than eager to share their faith with fans.