How Important are Sports?
In modern society sports tournaments are important social events. Teams of professionals draw thousands of spectators who want to see their heroes win. When amateurs play, because they like the sport, many come to encourage them. They rejoice with the winners, or they comfort the losers. After all, it's not a matter of winning or losing, but how you play the game.
Not only are sports enjoyable, they are also healthy. When, therefore, community, school, or neighborhood teams are formed by people who like a sport, this can be met with our appreciation. The same is true when the community is a congregation and church teams are formed. The different church teams come together for a tournament, to compete with each other for the trophy and the honor of being the winning team.
Such a church tournament is not only a sports event but also a social gathering. Friends and acquaintances, brothers and sisters, from near and far, meet each other on an occasion like this, perhaps not having seen each other for quite some time. They enjoy meeting again. In this way, such social sports events serve a good, positive purpose.
However, sports must remain a matter of leisure and entertainment. Sports, as everything else in life, must be approached from a biblical point of view. It cannot receive a primary place, but has to remain of secondary importance in our lives. The apostle Paul writes to Timothy:
Train yourself in godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.1 Timothy 4:7, 8
The training which is part of sports can result in both a healthy body and a well-functioning mind, for body and mind form a unity. However, a healthy body and well-functioning mind are not automatically a blessing. The question is: What do we do with our body and mind? or rather, Whom do we serve? If we serve ourselves instead of God, we cannot expect God's blessing on our life. Our involvement in sports becomes idolatry. Only when we serve God in faith, according to what He teaches us in His Word, may we expect His blessing. A godly life is pleasing to God. This applies also to sports. It is within the framework of this godly life that the apostle Paul shows the proper place for the training of the body, including our occupation with sports. Now, Paul writes that such a godly life with and for the Lord, in faith, also has the promise of eternal life. This teaches us that a biblical attitude to sports is important even for our eternal salvation, or rather, for our continuation in the fellowship with God through Christ.
This instruction of the Lord through His apostle Paul clearly shows what has to have priority in our life: not sports, not the training of the body, but godliness and the training in it.
In the practice of daily life, there should not be a conflict between these two training programs; they can easily be combined. This applies also to the social aspect; training in godliness can go together quite well with partaking in the social event of a sports tournament or of any other special occasion. Of course, combining the physical training and its social aspect with the training in godliness needs careful planning. For instance, attending catechism classes, a form of training in godliness, has priority over physical training in a certain sport. Sports on Sunday remains unacceptable. Parents and office bearers in the church keep these rules for themselves and teach them to their children.
Careful planning means that we avoid setting a meeting for training in godliness and a sports event on the same day. We should know from each other when the different events are scheduled. We should not make it difficult for each other. But if a choice must be made, it is clear what should take precedence.
In general, I would like to ask the question whether the things of the Lord still excite us. There is great interest in sports, as well as in other forms of entertainment. But are we also eager to attend meetings where we study God's Word together to receive training in godliness? Do we, as parents, as adults, also as office bearers, give a good example of godliness to our young people? Does seeking first the kingdom of heaven have priority in our life? Do we attend meetings of church and school with dedication and commitment because we are aware of our responsibilities? It is good to hear that youth rallies, league days, conferences, and so on, are generally well attended. But are they important for ALL who are able to attend?
I am thinking here not only of special meetings or events. Also the regular gatherings should be taken into the picture. Do we see our duties and obligations regarding the joint study of God's Word and the confession of the church in our society meetings? Sports events get us out of bed early and make us drive many miles. But do we have the same dedication and involvement when it comes to training in godliness, or does that easily become too much for us?
Let us watch our lifestyle also in this respect. Let godliness and the training in it remain the predominant factor in our life. For it is true: training in godliness is of value in every way. It holds a promise for the present life and for the life to come. Paul added:
For to this end we toil and strive, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.
Training in godliness builds holy lives for the Lord. It builds faithful churches for God. It causes the light of Christ to shine brightly in a dark, ungodly world.