It’s going to be Superbowl Sunday this weekend and we’re sure your youth are excited to be watching the game. Why not make it an opportunity to share something about how the game relates to their spiritual lives? Even if you don’t watch football, the lesson is applicable to most sports. Have a great weekend!
While you might not think of your Christian life as a football game, the Bible does use sports to teach about spiritual truths. In Biblical times they might not have had American football games or superbowls but they did have athletic competitions.
In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul writes, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
In Hebrews 12:1-2 we read, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
In Philippians 3:12-14 Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
“Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.” 2 Timothy 2:5
The sports may be different, but you’ll find some things in common with American football if you read the verses carefully. You’ll find running, a prize, winning and losing, competition, training, goals, fighting or struggle, opposition, spectators, obstacles and hindrances, focus and rules. Even so, there tons of lessons we can learn from football.
Take It to the Next Level
COMPETITION is part of the Game
By nature, sports are a competition. But to compete you must be in the game. Just as a coach chooses players to be in the football game, God has chosen us. Our competitor is focused on our defeat (1 Peter 5:8). But we also compete against ourselves. And it is sad to say, but just like in real life football games, most of the people in the stadium sit in the stands. Then there are those who are on the team, but sit in the bench. Most of us would prefer rest on the bench (or pew) and observe the game – both with encouragement and more often with criticism about how others are playing on the field. But God doesn’t call us to be spectators, but participants. Our field is the world (Mat. 13:38), and our goal is to win it for Jesus Christ. Sure, some will have a special call to play a bigger role, but everyone is called onto the field to play. Even if you may not have a key role a particular play, you must still be ready at a moment’s notice to dash onto the field and play your part when the coach calls your number to be on the field. You must clearly know your position, train, and practice your plays to be best prepared for that moment when you might be called upon to make a difference in the game (1 Peter 3:15, 2 Timothy 4:1-5).
There are RULES to the Game
The football field is laid out in ten yard increments, has boundaries, and there are rules to the game. The boundaries are there to keep us in the game. The 10 yard markers are there not as the object, but as a point of reference as we move toward the goal. If they weren’t there, we wouldn’t know if we were heading in the right direction or running to the wrong goal. God’s laws and the 10 commandments function in much the same way. They keep us in the game and give us points of reference for gaining or losing of ground. Violating the rules results in penalties and may even take us out of the game for a while. There are turnovers and fumbles as well. Yet when we compete according to the rules, and are victorious in our efforts, we will receive a prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
Our TIME on the field is limited
The clock is counting down. The game of football is played in four quarters with a set time limit. The wise player, especially the quarterback, will keep his eye on the clock and make the most of his time. The same is true for us as Christians, but unlike the game on the football field, we can’t see the clock. We don’t know how much time is left. This makes it even more important for us to value our time and make the most of it. The Bible commands us to redeem the time, to make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:16) rather than waste it. In fact, if you think about the world today there is not much time left on the clock. In fact, it’s already the fourth quarter, down to the two minute warning, and now it’s up to us to play our part win another one for the coach. Things may seem dire. But in life, just like in football, nothing is impossible, everything can happen. You should not slack or give up until the referee blows his whistle and declares the Victor.
TRAINING is essential for Victory
In football there is an in season and an off season. During the off season the team works on the fundamentals to get ready for the big games during football season. They train for the big games ahead. “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 2 Timothy 4:8 “Be ready in season and in the off season” 2 Timothy 4:2. “There is a season and a time to EVERY purpose under heaven” Ecclesiastes 3:1-11. There are times in our Christian walk when we experience seasons of rest. They’re not for us to be idle, but to prepare ourselves spiritually, to grow, to draw closer to God.
GEAR up for the Game
In Ephesians 6:10-18, Paul gives the team the pre-game pep talk and reminds us to check our football gear. He’s talking about gearing up for battle, but football players also gear up for the game. If he’d been thinking about football he might have phrased it this way, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the uniform, so that you can take your stand against the opposing team… Therefore put on all of your gear so that when the game day comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the shoulder pads of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the shoes of readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the face mask of faith, with which you can conquer all the opponents’ plays. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, your playbook, which is the word of God. Let’s all commit the game to God as we kneel for a locker room prayer, that we might prove victorious in this game.”
We strive for the GOAL
It is not enough to simply be in the game. It is not enough to simply overcome the enemy. Out goal is to score one for the team. And another one. And another one. Touchdown after Touchdown. In life, the goal may seem at the far end of the field. It can be difficult to keep moving forward. It may seem that every time you run a play you get knocked down. Sometimes you may even get sacked. The solution is not to focus on where you have come from, but where you are going. “Press on toward the Goal.” Philippians 3:14 And while touchdowns are great, as Christians our goal is to do more than simply score, but to be the player the Head Coach has chosen us to be. We must be always moving forward, never fumbling the ball, and always gaining new ground. If we do stumble and fumble, we are to recover the ball quickly and press onward. If we step out of bounds, or get the wind knocked out of us, we must get back in the game and focus on the Coach. And even if you are tackled for a loss, When you are focused on Him, and run the plays He calls, you’ll find yourself moving toward the goal.
We don’t play alone, but play as part of a TEAM
Football is a team sport. You don’t win it alone. When the team is working in harmony under the direction of the coach things will happen. There’s are star players, but the star players cannot function without the core team. They need blockers, the need linemen to open up opportunities in the defences. There is an offensive team, a kickoff team, a team of receivers, and a defensive team and each are critical to a win for the team. There is no individual victory, only the victory of the team. Only when all players, from the starting quarterback, the receivers, the linemen and the person playing his part in even the smallest position work together, does the team run a successful play. Likewise, every believer has a unique role and a part to play in the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 12:4-6; 12-20)
The Victors receive a PRIZE.
It’s not Super Bowl rings, but the crown of eternal life Christ that we seek. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Make it Practical
Are you in the game?
No one in the crowd ever gains a yard on the field. No one in the crowd ever adds a single point to the scoreboard. The game is played and won by the players on the field, and not by anyone else. Are you in the game or a spectator? Just being a Christian isn’t enough. You are called to be on the playing field, not in the stands or on the sidelines. Are you on the field playing the game and gaining ground for Jesus Christ or are you merely watching the game? The clock is ticking away, and time is running out. Get in the game before you lose your chance forever!
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
– 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
– Hebrews 12:1-2
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 3:12-14
“Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.”
– 2 Timothy 2:5
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
– 1 Peter 5:8
“The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one.”
– Matthew 13:38
“But in your hearts revere 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.”
– 1 Peter 3:15
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”
– 2 Timothy 4:1-5
“Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”
– Ephesians 5:16
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
– Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”
– Ephesians 6:10-18
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 3:14
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”
– 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”
– 1 Corinthians 12:12-20
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
– 2 Timothy 4:7-8
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