During our Little League Baseball game the catcher from the opposing team made an excellent play. Our coach yelled from the dugout, “Good catch” and then called the child by name. This was striking to me.
Though we were on the losing end of the game, our coach had an appreciation for a game played well. For the Christian, the old saying attributed to Grantland Rice is true:
It is not about winning or losing, but it is how you play the game.
Winning and losing are important. We always play to win the game, but winning and losing are not the most important things. Typically people play sports because they like their chosen sport. The enjoyment of a well-played game is satisfying.
To be able to rejoice in the athleticism of any athlete is humble and mature. It is similar to an employee receiving a promotion at work. You rejoice in their blessing. It is like a friend getting a long-awaited prayer answered, even though your prayers have not been answered according to your expectations.
Whether it is sports, work, church, or some other context, Christians strive for excellence and when they see excellence demonstrated, they rejoice in it, regardless of who does it.
That is what I enjoyed about our coach’s enthusiasm for the game, as well as his appreciation for an opposing player who made an excellent play.
What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? – 1 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV)
The Christian knows his accomplishments happen because of the LORD’s common grace. He allows balls and strikes for both teams (Matthew 5:45). If we win the game, it is a gift from the LORD. If the opposing team wins the game, we can rejoice in their good favor on that day.
Sometimes we can get ourselves into a bind when we say, “I asked the LORD to let us win the game today and we did.” Then someone comes back with, “What about the person on the other team who asked the LORD for the win?” They have a discussion point.
When we frame our sporting events as competitive praying, we are not only jumping into the subjective arena, but we could be missing an excellent opportunity to magnify the Gospel by putting Christ on display by our humility (Philippians 2:3-5).
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? – 1 Corinthians 1:20 (ESV)
It is not wrong to pray for a win. I regularly pray for outcomes that suit my preferences. However, it is a sign of Christian maturity when you can pray for a desired outcome, while rejoicing with the LORD’s decision regardless of what it is.
At the end of the game, the most important thing is for us to make our boast in the LORD. Play hard. Play to win. Rejoice in the outcome. Always celebrating the LORD’s good favor on any player, regardless of the stripes he wears.
Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. – 2 Corinthians 10:17 (ESV)
- Is it easy for you to rejoice in the favor you see others receiving?
- How is Christ put on display through your responses to the blessings others receive?