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Don’t Waste Your Sports, Part 5: The Grateful Athlete

First, we play to the glory of God by thanking him for his gifts.

Sports, and the ability to play them, are gifts from a merciful God. They are part of God’s kind design for humanity. In addition to being just plain fun, sports bring us many benefits, none of which we deserve. And we should thank God for all of them. Here are just a few:

  • Rest and refreshment: In a fallen world, in the work and weariness of daily life, God has kindly given us sports and recreation to refresh us. He has built a wonderful rhythm into this world: work, rest; work, rest; work, rest. For some, sports are work; but for most of us, sports are part of God’s gift of rest. And if we are paying attention, sports remind us of the eternal rest in God’s presence that awaits all who trust in Christ and his death on the cross for forgiveness of sins.
  • Health: the physical and mental benefits of physical exercise are undeniable—and if we’re going to exercise, sports are way more fun than the gym. Even a non-sport (in my opinion) like ultimate Frisbee is more enjoyable than just working out. Look at it this way: you could run on the treadmill, like I do, and despise every second of it, like I do. Or you could play an intense game of pick-up basketball.
  • Joy: Another obvious benefit of playing any sport is the sheer enjoyment of it. There’s the perfectly executed soccer pass. In baseball, the line drive single into center field. The nasty junk ball that defies physics, freezes the batter, and plummets into the catcher’s mitt for a strike. The volleyball spike. The golf drive down the middle of the fairway. The flawless 20-foot putt for birdie. We are talking serious fun.

You can even find joy in just watching sports, whether it’s someone you know or someone you don’t. I love watching my son, Chad, pay soccer. And there are many gifted professional athletes whom it is a joy to watch. Even though some athletes aren’t aware that their gifts come from God, we can still appreciate their gifts and enjoy watching them display their talents.

These gifts of rest, health, and joy aren’t given merely for our own pleasure. They have a greater purpose: to reveal the greatness and graciousness of God. All of God’s gifts—including a three-point shot and a volleyball spike—point away from themselves and back to God. They are intended to create fresh gratefulness to him and new affection for him.

When you were a child and received a birthday present, your parents might have taught you to first open the card and thank the giver, then unwrap the gift. They wanted you to understand that the gift doesn’t reinforce selfishness; it draws attention to the giver.

The same is true with God. Each day we receive innumerable gifts from God, and each one points our attention to him. But how often do I go through my day tearing the wrapping paper off one gift after another, never pausing to read the card? How often do I disregard God while enjoying his gifts?

Every day.

Each of us tends to receive gifts from God without thanking him. We neglect the Giver rather than glorifying him.

Not thanking God seems like no big deal. But in fact the Bible teaches us that ingratitude is a sin. It’s an insult to the God who showers us with good gifts.

So before your next practice or game, pause for a moment. Take time to thank God for this gift, for your health, for the weather—the list could go on and on.

Giving thanks to God for sports glorifies God. It also protects us from moving ourselves into the spotlight. If I’m not thanking God, I become big and God becomes small in my mind. But when we thank him for his gifts, we are humbly acknowledging that “from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).

Let’s be grateful athletes.


Enjoying Don’t Waste Your Sports? Get more:
Buy the booklet.
Hear the sermon.
Other posts in this series:

  1. Sports At Their Best—And Worst
  2. What Are Sports Really For?
  3. Meeting God Before the Opening Tip
  4. Play to the Glory of God
  5. The Grateful Athlete
  6. The Humble Athlete
  7. The Servant Athlete
  8. Sports Idols
  9. Your Next Game
  10. Application Questions for Athletes

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