I was an NBA fan until I realized that sports are being used to create idols. I loved watching sports. It brought me peace(sometimes) and it was a great distraction. While gradually growing in the LORD, I learned what idolatry really is and there were many forms of idolatry that I had yet experienced or discovered. I thought idolatry was just the blatant worship of Satan or an exalted person, but it wasn’t just that. Idolatry is any thing or anyone that you exalt above God, in terms of time and attention, in times of need, or even recreationally (Exodus 20:3-6). I noticed that it wasn’t only the athletes becoming idols to people but it was the teams, the coaches, places, wealth and notoriety.
As I mentioned before, I watched basketball regularly, and watched the highlights of other sports too. I loved keeping up with the stats. With that being said, I was always on ESPN, waiting for them to break down some stats or milestones that had never been achieved before by any other player, mainly the superstars. As the 2019-2020 NBA season was approaching, I prepared myself to go into this season without any idols. That meant no favorite teams, or coaches, or players– nothing! Especially since none of those things would bring me closer to God. I thought I was ready to watch sports with no strong attachments, just purely for entertainment purposes.
I started the season very disciplined; watching and not caring what games I missed, or which games I couldn’t finish watching. I had bought an NBA League Pass to watch the games wherever and whenever. I started to pass along my log-in info to a few of my friends, because I knew they would make better use of my membership. I did not want to enable them in something I didn’t necessarily support, but I wanted to share it and not let that money go to waste. As the season continued on, I found myself getting more and more into basketball again. I was scheduling time at home to watch games and I was constantly checking the stats. I also kept finding myself having a tug-of-war battle of which teams to root for whenever I watched the games.
It became very apparent to me that I still held basketball very dear to me when a coworker of mine called me out on a lie. At this point, I had already lessened how much basketball I watched, yet I was still checking the stats often. He and I were talking about sports, so I started preaching my discoveries, and told him that I don’t watch or care about sports anymore. I could’ve simply said that I “try” not to watch sports or care about it. Shortly after, I got into another sports discussion with the same coworker, but now, with another coworker involved. This second coworker doesn’t play a major role, except for being present for the embarrassment I felt after being rebuked. But I digress. Basketball was the topic again, and this time, I started pointing out the stats of teams and players. My coworker noticed this, looked at me with confusion and distrust then said, “Yo, I thought you said you don’t watch sports?” And instead of apologizing for my unintentional deception, I, feeling embarrassed, told him that I check out the stats sometimes online. As soon as I got some time to myself, I started to evaluate myself. I needed to do something about this.
I decided to fast[take a break] from basketball and come back when I felt like I would be ready to enjoy it with discernment, and less hypocrisy. Not long after making that decision did I hear the tragic news that former NBA player, Kobe Bryant, died in a helicopter crash. I wanted to see how the NBA would respond to the tragic news, but I tried my best to fight the urge to watch basketball. Around that time there was a tennis event going on and I would watch it on the television in the lobby while working. I wasn’t just watching, I was studying it. I would pay attention to the player’s emotions, gestures, and motivations. I would watch the fans in the audience, I would hear how the announcers spoke about the players. Also, I noticed the reactions of those people closest to the tennis players, like their families and their coaches. I didn’t like it; I felt annoyed and disgusted with what I was seeing, because I could see what was happening spiritually. I sat there, collected all my thoughts, and asked God to speak to me and guide me through His wisdom.
I started to wonder, Are sports even mentioned in the Bible?
After doing some research, I noticed that sports are mentioned in the Bible several times, but not the way that you might think it is. Sports are mentioned by Paul a few times as a way to compare the discipline needed in sports to the same discipline required (if not more discipline) to walk with Christ (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). To press toward the everlasting reward by first seeking the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33; Philippians 3:14). The Bible speaks on running “The Race” and enduring a lot. But the Bible focuses on finishing this race even more.
Carrying our cross after accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior is truly the only sport that matters (Luke 14:27). The Race begins the moment you accept being saved by His Grace (Ephesians 2:8-9; James 2:18). Imagine you’re running few different races at the same time that make one, big race. Sharing the Gospel (Mark 16:15), keeping your faith until the end no matter what you are going through mentally/emotionally, physically, and spiritually (Matthew 10:22), fighting the fight in spiritual warfare against the evil forces around you (Ephesians 6:11-12) and the continual fight between your spirit and your flesh (Galatians 5:16-18). All are inevitable if you are to walk with Christ. Many want to keep their “peace” and avoid anything that may be a hassle, thus running away from the trials and tribulations needed to grow in the LORD. The parable of the sower is a good example of the hardships we will face that may overwhelm us (Luke 8:4-15).
No one can accept Christ for you. The first act of a repentant sinner is realizing the absolute need of Christ, our Lord and Savior. The Race is very personal and is ran alone, but you are not the only one running. Unite with those who love God (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Matthew 18:20; 2 Corinthians 6:14). And even when you are alone physically, you are never alone spiritually. You always have God right beside you, guiding you through the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 41:10; Romans 8:26-27). Also, we are all called to move in one accord, in one Spirit, no matter where we are in this world (Philippians 2:1-5).
Then I wondered, Is sports the problem or is it professional sports?
After my studies on sport’s Biblical significance, I discovered that sports is not the issue. The true problem is how the world abuses sports for entertainment, money, and fame. The problem with sports is the competitive nature and how it causes the players to be selfish and egotistical, instead of being considerate and modest. It nurtures pride and rejects genuine humility. So many athletes are unsportsmanlike in conduct. I was curious to know if any of these athletes had truly found Christ.
I remember believing certain players when they said that they were Christians, but, back then, I couldn’t see just how lukewarm they actually were. The way they behaved reminded me of myself when I was lukewarm. But I know there are some that truly know and love Christ. You will know a person by the fruit that they produce (Matthew 7:16). My disdain for professional sports grew as I grew closer to Jesus. I can’t stand watching or even hearing people have pointless and endless discussions, or heated arguments about sports, especially when it’s about a player’s legacy. Now, most people at work know not to talk to me about sports. I don’t want it for entertainment or a distraction anymore.
One evening, at work, after I was relieved of my post by my coworker (the same one from before), he turned on the television to watch the Lakers play. I clocked out, grabbed my belongings, and was heading out of the building, but while leaving, I looked at the tv screen and noticed the camera was on Lebron James. I paid no mind, turned the corner, and continued my departure. My coworker yelled, “The king”, after he noticed that I turned to look at the screen. I felt a fire burning inside of me to rebuke him for such nonsense. I turned as I was walking away and said, “There is only one KING. You know His name”(Zechariah 14:9). By the end of my sentence, I was already out of sight, but I know I was heard. Do not exalt yourself or anybody else above our Lord and Saviour.
Dania and I often mention how all things point to God, so sports does too. Walking with Christ is the most extreme sport I know. You realize the heavy burden that had been placed on your back when coming to Christ (Psalm 38:4). Take His yoke, without complaining (Matthew 5:10; Matthew 11:28-30; Matthew 16:24-25), and not relying on your own strength or understanding (Proverbs 3:5-8; Philippians 4:13). The Holy Spirit will show you the way, and guide you. Along the journey, you will share your testimony with others so that they might also come to Christ (Matthew 5:14-16; Mark 16:16) and help one another in love (Romans 13:8). You learn and you grow, and you are transformed by giving yourself to The LORD (Galatians 2:20). Regardless of the obstacles you face, you are called to have faith in God and be obedient to God so that you will make it to the finish line (2 Timothy 4:7-8; Hebrews 12:1-11).
I love you, God bless.