It’s that time of year again. A few weeks after school starts many families add their children’s sports activities to their already packed schedules. Our family is part of that trend. Our son just started a soccer season.
Sports have played a vital role in our family. When I took our two daughters to their first soccer practice when they were in kindergarten I had no idea I would still be attending their soccer games (even this weekend) to cheer them on as student-athletes in college.
Since I have the privilege of raising a young boy all over again (ten years behind my first two), I have been thinking about what it means to pursue a sport from God’s perspective. There is a future blog post brewing inside of me about advice I would give parents who dream of their child getting a college scholarship and maybe even playing professionally. I hear many parents talking in such a way about their young children. Having traveled the path with two children, I have thoughts.
But that’s for another day.
For today, I am interested in walking out a young boy’s soccer season in a way that glorifies God.
I already know that will mean more than the standard answer: faithfully taking him to practice, bringing snacks on my assigned day, cheering loudly, not yelling at the referees and being kind to parents and players. If that is your definition of a God-honoring season, then perhaps this post will challenge you.
Honoring God this season means more.
I have come to understand that God does not care about soccer, or any other sport.
Rather, soccer is the means God uses to achieve much higher purposes:
- Soccer provides great exercise to maintain a healthy body. (Our bodies were meant to move.)
- Soccer is an opportunity God uses to develop Christ-like character.
- Soccer provides a platform through which Christian athletes can display God’s nature to a watching world.
- Perhaps most of all, however, God is interested in the people with whom we interact as our family participates in a sport’s season with other families and players. It is in interpersonal relationships that God gains the most room to woo others to Himself.
Nowhere on this list is there mention of a win-loss record or a college scholarship. God is not interested in those pursuits.
If He provides wins and scholarships it’s because they were necessary to achieve His higher purposes in those particular families and players, on that team and in that year.
(When moments like this happen. Enjoy them. They may never happen, or they may never happen again.)
What sport does your child play?
What can you pray? God’s word instructs us to pray about anything and everything (Ephesians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:17), so of course we pray for lack of injuries and for the season to be profitable in every regard for all involved.
But there’s more to pray in order to connect your participation in sports to God’s higher purposes.
For example, do you invite God into the season to do His will in and through your child? This means if your child gets an injury, you can trust Him with that disappointing story.
Instead of praying to win, do you ask God to allow each member of both teams to play at their best and have the score reflect the truth? This means if your team loses, you trust that the struggle God has allowed your child to endure is for his or her good.
Do you ask God to orchestrate your child’s relationships and playing time for His perfect story? This means you are not insistent with the coach about your child’s playing time or whether or not they are captain.
Do you pray that your child and your family influence people for Christ this season? This means you show up at practices and games looking for relationship-building conversations in hopes of building eventual gospel bridges.
Have you taken the team roster and put it in your prayer journal, lifting everyone up by name to the throne of God? Imagine leaving a season having never had a long conversation with any member of a certain family but all season long you had prayed for God to chase them with His love and lead them into full knowledge of Him. Those prayers then track with that family from that season forward and count for eternity.
Even that is something. Something huge.
This photo was taken at practice this week over our soccer fields. See the sunlight pouring down? This photo depicts a spiritual reality.
God wants to release His power into our sports seasons so His higher purposes are achieved.
This can only occur, however, when we live in such a way as to invite and allow Him to use our athletics for His glory and Story.
- Pray for things like the salvation and/or spiritual growth of each person on the team roster. (My prayer journal has always included team rosters. I make double copies. One for the fridge. One for God.)
- Pray that as you interact with every person, you reflect the character of Christ and seize every opportunity to live out your faith with transparency. (After parking and getting kids and gear out out of the car, pray for people on the team before your own feet hit the ground and head to the event.)
The key point for today is that every prayer request–even for children’s athletic events–can link to eternal matters much more important than scores and (elusive) scholarships.
Don’t just enjoy cheering on your children this fall. Enjoy the Lord too. Enjoy connecting your life to eternal matters. Enjoy releasing God’s power so your doable efforts can be transformed into God-sized results.
I hear prayers that range from a child’s science test to a spouse’s cancer. Let’s keep it up – and add more. Let’s add prayers for the string [eternity] and pray for people’s souls. Let’s add prayers of invitation and invite God into all situations to do what He wants, not what we want. And let’s add prayers of confession both to God and people. (Live ABOVE the Chaos, p. 202)
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