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Competitive Sports

     The trend in some churches is toward young people getting involved in sports- baseball, softball, hockey (in Canada), soccer (in Latin America), or any other competitive sport. The involvement begins to show in regular game playing by groups of youth playing against each other in team competition. This leads to forming leagues, wearing special uniforms, and being well-informed about the big leagues: who is playing whom, keeping up with the scores, and who the famous players are.
Baseball player     As a result, the fever runs high, calling for more practice, better players, and better equipment to outdo the competitors. After all, everyone is out to win. Consciously or unconsciously, the desire for the praise of men competes against zeal for God's approval!
     We may say, "My church does not go that far." But which way are we going, and how much effort are we expending in that direction?
     Are we willing to stop and seriously consider whether this motivation is from Christ or whether it is from the world? Let us consider honestly whether these activities are conducive to spiritual life or whether they are a violation of Bible principles.
     What gets more publicity today than sports, both locally and worldwide? Is there anything that draws larger crowds than sports events? Famous players are idolized and receive larger salaries than heads of state. Anything so highly esteemed by degenerate man cannot possibly be pleasing to God, "for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God" (Luke 16:15). "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).
Baseball player     The spirit of these sports events is contrary to the spirit of Christ. Jesus said, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matthew 7:12). Competing to outdo one another is directly opposite to the Bible injunctions of "in honour preferring one another" (Romans 12:10) and "in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" (Philippians 2:3). A commitment to Christ leaves neither time nor interest for commercial sports in a worldly stadium.
     Only good players are qualified to play on a popular team. They are the ones who get all the praise and cheers, ballooning their pride more and more. They are talked about, publicized, imitated, idolized, and worshiped by unregenerate society. But the Bible says, "Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate" (Romans 12:16). "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" (James 4:6).
     Whenever the physical power, strength, and ability of man is displayed before an audience, it has a demoralizing effect. As a result of the emotional stirrings of sports events, immorality and other sensual sins often are fanned.
     Again the Bible speaks clearly. "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world" (1 John 2:16).
Volleyball players     "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness" [feeling, showing, or causing lust] (Galatians 5:19). We are warned to "abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (1 Peter 2:11).
     Wholesome games for children are good exercise for the development of their minds and bodies. It is good for parents to take time to play with their children. And it is no sin for youth to have an occasional informal, friendly game as a social or recreational affair on a family to family basis. But if and when your recreation becomes an obsession, you are serving the wrong master.
     Spiritual maturity will express itself in activities that glorify God and benefit man. Paul testified, "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child:" [and no doubt played as a child] "but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11).
     If we give our energy for the sports fever, our fervor for the things God will diminish. Attendance at prayer meeting and the activities of the church begin to take second place. This is a sign of real danger. We want to be a praying church, not a playing church!
Tennis player     We are not interested in accusing you. Evaluate your priorities and commitment. Do you experience fulfillment that is the result of a close fellowship with God? Are your finding rest in being yoked with Christ and doing His will?
     The church was not commissioned to provide activities for her youth, but to evangelize souls into the kingdom and to nurture them that they may grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord. This burden and vision needs to be inspired in the hearts of youth. The true joy of spirituality, of witnessing for Christ and obeying the Word, supersedes that of winning a game or catching a big fish! The lack of this experience is fertile ground for youth to expend their energy and talents on the vanity of sports, for the want of something better.
     If you want to team up, then team up with God and His children. If you want to be competitive, seek to excel to the edifying of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:12). If you want to win, then count all earthly gain as "loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (Philippians 3:8). Your reward in heaven will far outweigh any earthly honour. And it will be for eternity. Thank God.

-Sanford Yoder

This tract is available from:
    21E286 Rod and Staff Publishers, Inc., Crockett, KY
    41413. Telephone 606/522-4348.

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