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Winning and Losing – Is God Involved in Games?

April 11, 2008

Did anyone watch the NCAA Men’s Basketball title game?  It was very exciting – Kansas came back from nine points down with just over two minutes left to tie it with a few seconds left in regulation, sending the game into overtime.  Once there, Kansas proceeded to win the game.  The father of Mario Chalmers, who made the tying three, credited this to divine intervention.  Claims like this tend to evoke derision among most people, who either see games as a test of skill and no more, or question if God cares about basketball games.

My answer is that, if you believe in a Sovereign God, of course he is in control of the game.  Nothing is outside of his control.  Not only that, but he probably has a reason for working the game the way he did.  So yes, God does care about basketball games.  I believe that if played correctly, sports gives glory to God.  People pushing their athletic bodies to the limit, doing amazing things that most people can only dream of,
shows what an amazing creation the human body is, and points back to the Creator.  Now this can be distorted by sin, such as people robbing God’s glory for themselves, or fans idolizing their favorite player or team, but that doesn’t make the sporting event evil, just as the propensity of some people to idolize the sun, moon, and stars does not make stargazing a sin.

So yes, God is involved in games.  So what lessons should we take from winning or losing, both as fans and athletes?

Losers can be disappointed by their loss.  Bad things happen in life, and we don’t have to be happy about it.  A lot of the proper response to losing involves not succumbing to certain temptations.  There is the temptation to anger, either at your teammates, the other team, or the officials.  You can be drawn to sulk, refusing to see that there are more important things than losing a game – this often happens if you have idolized the game beforehand, and are giving it undue importance.  We can learn from losing – often, athletes look back and see that they learned something from a loss that never would have come to light during a win.

Winners must also guard against temptation.  You can pridefully gloat, exulting in your abilities over the God who made you.  You can celebrate in a way that belittles the other team.  Winning can lead to a smug behavior that must be avoided.  Winners have the opportunity to serve losers by acknowledging their effort, and being kind in victory.  They also have the best opportunity to glorify God, as attention often focuses on them.

Winning and losing in sports are very important to get right.  If we miss this, we miss the point of the sporting event itself.

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