Sport and self-control
Are you still a loving Christian when you walk onto the field?
Some people say when they get on the field they become a different person.
Every week there are more new stories about something outrageous happening during sport. Recently the Australian tennis star Nick Kyrgios has been under fire for inappropriate language and short temper.
But do we really become someone different when playing sport? Are we just out of control animals? I want to challenge you to think about how you act on the sporting field; to see it as an opportunity to practice self control rather than to just cut loose.
The heat of the moment
I’ve played sport my whole life and have always had a competitive edge.
I love sport and I know what it’s like to have the adrenaline pumping - things often happen that we regret in the heat of the moment. We get a rough tackle and want to get back at them. We get a harsh insult and we bite back.
The fear of losing expresses itself in reckless decisions. But when things go against you, you need to practice self control, because unless you continue to work on it, your sinful desires will take over.
Self control matters
It’s worth working on our self control because it matters to God and is part of living a godly life.
Everyone who trusts in Jesus receives salvation, and it is this grace that helps us to say “no to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives” (Titus 2:12).
In that same chapter of Titus, self-control is key character trait that Paul says ought to be taught, especially to young men. Similarly, in Galatians 5, self-control is listed as part of the fruit of the Spirit, showing that it matters to God.
As Paul writes: "those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit". (Galatians 5:24-25).
A good chance to practice
Self-control is like a muscle. If you spend time training muscles in your legs or arms (or even if you don’t) it’s of much more worth to put time into growing your self-control muscle, and the only way you can do that is by stretching it.
Every match you play is a good chance to practice your self-control. As I said at the start, things happen on the sporting field that really test your resolve. So here are a few things to keep in mind as you walk on to the field:
- Ignore the actions of others. Remember your identity is in Christ, not what others think or what the scoreboard says. So don’t get put off by the words or actions of others. Let your integrity and sportsmanship do the talking rather than seeking revenge.
- Replace put-downs with encouragement. This is great for any team sport! Any time you think about insulting the opposition, replace it with a positive encouragement towards your own team. Even better would be to try complimenting your opponent when they do something good.
- Help your team-mates. We all have off days and are all tainted by sin, so we need to make a pact to help each other. Talk to your team mates and remind them to practice self-control if they look to be losing their patience.
Self-control matters to God, so keep flexing that muscle!