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The Intersection of Faith and Sports: Does God Care Who Wins?


Does God Care Who Wins?

As a Christian strength and conditioning coach, I aim to integrate faith into pursuing peak physical performance. I am driven by the conviction that our physical abilities are a gift from God, meant to be maximized for His glory.

 

But amidst the grind of training and competing, there's a question that has lingered in the back of my mind for quite some time. It's a question that goes beyond athlete development, beyond the scoreboard, and straight into the heart of what it means to integrate faith into the realm of sports.

 

Does God care who wins?

 

This question appears straightforward at first glance, but digging deeper unpacks its profound complexity. If you say yes, does it imply divine favoritism towards winners over losers? On the other hand, does saying no suggest a selective concern of God towards certain aspects of the world while disregarding others?

 

In a recent poll, followers of SBSC were asked this question: In the context of sports, does God care who wins? Here’s the breakdown...

 

Yes – 8%

 

No – 56%

 

I’m not sure – 36%

 

Judging from these responses, there is no simple answer.

 

Yet, I think the answer matters. At least I know it matters to me.

 

It matters because it's not just a theological exercise; it's a reflection of my own journey—a journey that has seen me push my physical limits, overcome challenges, and, at times, grapple with the deeper purpose behind the victories and defeats.

 

As a coach, I've witnessed the transformative power of discipline, perseverance, and faith. But I've also seen the spiritual battle that can accompany the pursuit of success. The quest for victory can sometimes overshadow the values we hold dear, and that's where the intersection of God and sports becomes crucial.

 

If any of what I’m saying resonates with you, you're in the right place. Here, I'll do my best to unpack and answer this question to the best of my ability.

 

As I do, I hope you’ll prayerfully consider your thoughts on this highly personal subject. My desire is for you to deepen your connection with God by gaining insight into who He is and how He views you and your athletic aspirations.

 

Who Are We Talking About?

 

For me, the first step in answering this question is to fully understand who we’re talking about.

 

If we’re honest, the “who” has a lot to do with it. For example, if you’re playing a game and we’re talking about the head coach of your team...does he care who wins? Yes (at least we hope so). If we’re talking about your cousin from Boston who you see once every five years...does he care who wins? Probably not.

 

We can determine how these individuals might answer based on who we know them to be; based on their character.

 

So, the first step in determining if God cares who wins is to define His character. Specifically, His capacity for caring and what He cares about.

 

We know from Colossians 1:16 that God created everything, and Psalms 145:9 confirms that He cares about everything He made.

 

If we take everything to mean everything, that must include sports. Since sports have an outcome that we define as either a win or a loss, we must conclude that God does, in fact, care who wins.

 

Done.

 

I know, I know. It’s not that simple.

 

I like things to be simple, but in this case, simple leaves too many aspects of the question untouched. One big one, for me, is a need for a deeper understanding of God's involvement in the outcome of competitions.

 

Did you know that approximately 48% of Americans, and over 60% of Protestant Americans, believe that athletes of faith are rewarded with success and good health? We see this kind of theology in post-game interviews where athletes attribute their victories to divine favor.

 

But this thinking presents a problem, doesn’t it? It suggests that the athlete on the other side of that equation (the loser) didn’t receive God’s favor. I struggle with that because it leans toward the notion that if we’re “faithful” enough we’ll be rewarded with a win, but if we’re not “faithful” enough, it will contribute to a loss.

 

See, we tend to think of competition only in terms of winning or losing. That’s the nature of competition, right? A winner and a loser...and nobody wants to be a loser.

 

As competitive athletes, our goal is to win.


God's Goal


God, on the other hand, has a much bigger goal. Let’s go back to who we’re talking about and take a closer look.

 

First, our Heavenly Father is the all-powerful (Jeremiah 32:17), all-knowing (Psalms 147:5), always present (Psalms 139:1-2) God of all creation (Colossians 1:16).

 

He is uncaused (Psalms 90:2) and unchanging (Psalms 102:27).

 

We’re off to a good start…

 

Second, God is love (1 John 4:16), and His love is unconditional (Romans 5:8).

 

Third, He has an amazing plan for you and me. John 10:10 tells us that God wants us to experience a full, abundant life with Him.

 

This is His goal. And just like us, God cares about His goal.

 

Now, before you start to have visions of lavish homes, expensive cars, or winning 8 gold medals at the Olympics, we need to pause for a moment and think about what God means by this abundant life.

 

The Bible tells us that wealth, prestige, position, and power in this world are not God’s priorities for us (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). Then, abundant life is not centered around winning.

 

Abundant life is eternal life, a life that begins the moment we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. Take a look at 1 John 5:11-12…

 

And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.

 

So, does God care who wins?

 

Consider this perspective: God cares who wins and He cares about the final score, but not in terms of wins and losses. Rather He cares about them as circumstances contributing to His ultimate victory.

 

One could argue that God cares because he knows that the result of individual games and competitions can significantly influence the course of our lives. This aligns with His sovereignty, and Romans 8:28 says:

 

“In all things God works for the good of those who love him.”

 

If we accept God’s sovereignty over the universe and that He works all things for our good, it logically extends to our engagement in sports.

 

However, interpreting what constitutes “good” in this context is crucial. For us…we think “good” is winning all the time, breaking world records, and getting promoted.

 

But Paul continues in verse 29 to say:

 

“For those God foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.”

 

The “good” God works in us is making us more like Jesus – having our character changed so we grow in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22).

 

The uncomfortable truth is that the Spirit often cultivates these characteristics in adversity. Have you thought that God might be more interested in your godliness than your success?

God uses the highs and lows of sport to make us more like Him and to draw others to Him.

 

He can use the agony of defeat or the shame of a loss to remind us of our identity fixed and secure in Him as our Father. He can use the joy of victory which fades quickly, to remind us of the everlasting joy of Heaven to come.

 

As we either win or lose, God is blessing both the “winner” and the “loser” with another opportunity to worship Him in how we respond to Him and those around us. He even uses the outcomes to allow those who don’t yet trust in Jesus to realize their need for Him as they see the emptiness of both victory and defeat at being able to provide lasting satisfaction.

 

So, does God care who wins?

 

Absolutely. He cares because He loves us and longs for us to be more like Him.

 

Dedicated to your success,

 

Sam

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