It?s the fourth quarter of the annual football game between the Iowa State Cyclones and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes. Two minutes are left on the clock and the Cyclones have to drive the length of the field and score a touchdown to win both the game and bragging rights for the rest of the year. Cyclone fans all over the state of Iowa are praying to God for their team to win. Hawkeye fans all over the state of Iowa are praying to God for their team to win. Who is God rooting for?
This raises some important questions. If you are a person of faith, how does your faith impact your athletic interactions and experiences? And vice versa, how does your athletic experience play into your faith life and belief system? Can one give thanks to God for their gifts and abilities, use them to the best of their ability and still be humble and kind? Can we pray for our enemies or rivals? What if we skip church on Sunday morning for athletic events?
I am ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and I also coach JV girls basketball. So I find myself thinking a lot about the connections between faith, sports and God. When we live in a culture where sports are practically a religion, how does God figure into all of this?
In Scripture, the apostle Paul used sports metaphors to explain the virtues of Christian discipleship. To describe our commitment to Christ, he combined images of running a race, boxing and training for an athletic contest (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). In fact, one of my favorite scriptures I used in competition was Philippians 4:13, ?I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.?
I believe God is continually encouraging me to do my best in all that I endeavor, sports or otherwise, and that Christ is walking alongside me. So when the game gets intense and there is a lot on the line, it is wise to hear those words of the apostle Paul when he mentions self-control. We must remember why it is we play (or watch) and resist the desire to ?win at all costs.? God has a greater calling on our lives than to just win the next game.
So who is God rooting for? The Cyclones, of course.