Thursday, January 31, 2013

Is God a Spiritual Steroid for Athletes?

Thanks to my friend Tim Archer (read his blog here) for pointing me to this article.

A recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute reveals that over one quarter of Americans believe God influences the outcomes of sports events.

"While only about 3-in-10 (27%) Americans, believe that God plays a role in determining which team wins a sporting event, a majority (53%) believe that God rewards athletes who have faith with good health and success."
I'm not sure that these numbers should surprise me, but they do. 27% of Americans think that God cares who wins the Superbowl this Sunday. 53% believe Christian athletes will be more successful because God will reward their faith!

27% of Americans think that God who:
  • created the world, 
  • died on the cross for our sins, 
  • defeated death in his resurrection, 
  • maintains the struggle against sin and Satan, 
  • calls people to enter his kingdom and be transformed into his likeness while carrying out his mission, 
also cares who wins a football game in New Orleans this Sunday, and will take the time and effort to influence the outcome!!!!!! One quarter!!!! I'm flabbergasted!!!!

So does the Superbowl really come down to talent, focus, absence of injuries, X and O's, or just which team has the most Christians on it?

This survey brings me back to the article by Josh Graves that inspired this blog, "Is it OK to pray for your team to win Super Bowl 2012?" I encourage you to read that article. Josh did an excellent job of answering the question.

God cares about people, not scores. God cares for the kids with cancer in both Baltimore and San Francisco and while one may end the game ecstatic and the other devastated, God cares for both. He cares that their treatment is effective. He cares that they have the family and emotional support they need. He cares that they know Him. He doesn't care so much about the trophy presentation Sunday night.

Then 53% of Americans believe God assists Christian athletes?!?! All I can say is I don't think he does a very good job. According to this site, "In March 2004 he donated all $700,000 of his second place finish in the Accenture Match Play Championship to the building fund at St. Simons Presbyterian Church." This article in the Christian Chronicle describes how Kenny Perry is a deacon of a Church of Christ in Franklin, Kentucky and has donated 5% of his winnings to Lipscomb University throughout his career. While both Davis Love III and Kenny Perry have been tremendously successful golfers, their accomplishments don't come close to matching Tiger Woods who makes no profession of faith in Christ and was revealed as a serial adulterer several years ago.

As you look around the sports world there have certainly been successful athletes who are Christians, but seldom are they the most dominant player in their sport. So God must only be good for a bit of a performance boost, but not enough to get you all the way to the top!

Of all the information in the report I found this observation the most telling:
"Americans say religion is significantly more important to their lives than their fan affiliation, but they are about as likely to watch sports each week as they are to attend religious services."
It's as though we know the right answer to give, but our actions reveal another story. Of course there could be several reasons this is true:
  • Sports are on TV more often than church services are held.
  • Fans might watch 20 minutes of a game and then go to bed, which is hard to compare to a minimum 1 hour commitment at a church building.
  • Many people no longer associate faith with attending religious services.
  • Perhaps you can think of more.
It's true that religious services don't provide the full measure of a person's commitment to Christ, but I hope we all agree they provide some measure. When we discover that sports dominate our leisure time and casual conversations, it's time to dedicate ourselves to our relationship with God again. We know it's important, but we don't set priorities based on importance.

May each of us keep God and his mission as our priorities, not just in our heads, while enjoying the entertainment that is sports.

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