In recent years, I have also become a tennis dad. Tennis is a sport in which I only dabbled as a child, but now several of my children play competitively. I have grown to love the sport because of the sportsmanship inherent in the game and the fact that it is uniquely grueling and mentally taxing. My second oldest son, Will, says that while he has played baseball, football, and basketball, tennis is the most mentally challenging of them all. My oldest daughter, Lydia Grace, plays competitively, and my favorite match she ever played was one that she lost when she was twelve years old. It was a championship match against a very good opponent, and my daughter’s serve was torturously bad to begin the match. She lost the first set handily, and her opponent’s father began creating drama by yelling and arguing. To make matters worse, she started the second set by breaking a string on the only racket she had. We had to find her another racket to use, and she lost a point because of the delay. Things looked bleak, but she began to battle and won the second set. The match went to a ten-point tiebreaker, and she took an early lead but ended up losing 11–9 in the tiebreaker. I told her after the match that I was kind of glad she lost; I didn’t want her to think that my delight in her tenacity and ability to overcome obstacles was due to her winning.
I could continue recounting stories like these for the entirety of this book, but I will not. Both of the events that I just explained have led to countless conversations about what it means to follow Christ and to serve his church. They are reference points, lessons learned in smaller arenas, that have profound implications when thinking about the ultimate arena of life. My purpose in this book is twofold. First, I will examine sports from a biblical-theological perspective. Second, I will practically examine how sports provide a limited but genuine window that can help us apply our lives to the gospel story revealed in Scripture. I desire for this book to be a valuable resource in helping Christian coaches and players on all levels, from youth leagues to professional, as well as in assisting parents of athletes and fans in thinking biblically and intentionally as Christians about their participation in and enjoyment of sports. Along the way we will keep in mind Theodore Roosevelt’s helpful admonition, “I trust I need not add that in defending athletics I would not for one moment be understood as excusing that perversion of athletics which would make it the end of life instead of merely a means in life.”6
David E. Prince, In the Arena: The Promise of Sports for Christian Discipleship (Nashville: B&H, 2016).
I have just completed a 5-week Bible Study is a challenge to take your discipleship as seriously as you take your sports. The bible often uses the arena of sports as a metaphor to help us understand Christian discipleship.
Five sessions include:
Surrounded. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses… let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12.1 – 3.
Pursuing Holiness. Anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. 2 Timothy 2:4–6
One thing. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on. Philippians 3:12–14
Run to Win. 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. 1 Corinthians 9:24–26
Trained. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things. 1 Timothy 4:8
This service is like Netflix for Bible Lessons. You pay a low monthly, quarterly or annual fee and get access to all the lessons. New lessons that
correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines are automatically included, as well as a backlog of thousands of lessons. Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking, as well as answers from well-known authors such as Charles Swindoll and Max Lucado. For more information, or to sign up, click here.