The following is an excerpt from the new book I am working on to help churches start simple sports ministries that evangelize and disciple young people. It will probably be available as an ebook for the Kindle and Nook and should be available within a month or two. One section with a selection shown here will provide devotional starters for sports ministry leaders (coaches). Please let me know what you think in the comments section.
SPORTS AND ATHLETICS IN THE BIBLE
Sports and athletics have become a universal language today to such an extent that a great sports ministry may open the heart and mind to the message of Christ. Athletic prowess and development has a long history and various aspects are mentioned throughout the Bible. The following references may assist your JUMP Sports ministry leaders with inspiring devotional subjects for participants. Each selection provides a sport, the subject or biblical character involved, the Simple Discipleship domain to which it may be related, application points, the passage, and what I call Sports Shorts devotional starters.
- Ishmael the archer-
- SD Domain: Worship- While there is no record of Ishmael having a close relationship with God, through his mother Hagar he was promised God’s presence and blessing. Thus, the potential was certainly there even though he was not the son of the Abrahamic covenant.
- Applications: focus, discipline, practice/repetition, hitting the mark, creativity, patience, perseverance
So God was with the lad (Ishmael); and he grew and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. Genesis 21:20 (NKJV)
As an archer Ishmael likely spent much time alone practicing his sport or even hunting prey for food. Such a sport requires disciplined thinking and focus but there is often thinking and self-dialogue that goes on behind the eyes. What is the backdraft conversation going on when you are alone practicing your sport? Does it reflect faith in Christ or is it void of such conversations? As you are focusing on the goal or target of your sport, ask the Lord to help you. In the lull times of your sport, communicate your concerns and deep longings to God. He is sure to answer.
- Esau the hunter-
- SD Domain: Worship- Esau is an example of a worldly man but we may learn something from his chosen sport…hunting.
- Applications: patience, perseverance, strength, focus, mental acuity, use of all of one’s senses
- 27 So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Genesis 25:27-28 (NKJV)
Esau was a skillful hunter according to the Bible but even with as much time as he spent alone waiting for game to appear, he apparently spent no time talking to God and developing his relationship with him. Almost every hunter I know says that they enjoy the time “taking in” God’s beautiful creation when they are waiting for the game to appear. Some hunters wait for hours for a deer, elk, moose, or turkey to appear in their sights. One of my most memorable times hunting was in a deer stand that looked over the top of a young pine forest in Georgia (USA). As I waited, I could see rabbits eating fearlessly below my stand and I could hear the eerie sound of owls hooting in the thick pines close to me. I did not see a deer that evening even though I waited several hours. I spent the time remembering Bible verses and praying through them with my eyes wide open as I watched for a deer. The deer failed to show up but God certainly did.
There is another aspect of being a hunter…it is the idea of the hunter and the hunted. If you are hunting for God who will forgive, love, and guide you then he will be found. If you are running from God, he will find you.
- Jacob wrestled with God-
- SD Domain: Worship- The encounter of Jacob with who I believe is the pre-incarnate Christ, is clearly a real event and an illustration for us to “hang on to God.” We should have such an intimate relationship with God that we do not let go of him.
- Applications: strength, striving with God, perseverance
22 And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. 23 He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. 24 Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. 25 Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. 26 And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” 27 So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” 28 And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” And He blessed him there. 30 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.” 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the children of Israel do not eat the muscle that shrank, which is on the hip socket, because He touched the socket of Jacob’s hip in the muscle that shrank. Genesis 32:22-32 (NKJV)
Jacob was bold when he wrestled with this divine being we know to be God in human form. What is remarkable is Jacob’s relentless perseverance reflected in his saying, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Is Jacob’s experience similar to yours? Are you hanging on to God until he blesses you? It is a description of persevering faith. Don’t let go of God and he will bless you.
- Joseph’s physically fit…and spiritually fit-
- SD Domain: Word- God has revealed principles for living in the Bible and in our conscience and we must live by them.
- Applications: Staying fit, integrity, righteousness, Christmanship
6 Thus he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand, and he did not know what he had except for the bread which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. 7 And it came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. 9 “There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” 10 So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her. Genesis 39:6-10 (NKJV)
Joseph is a great example of the principle of Christmanship. Okay, I know Christ is not in the mind of Joseph, but the principle is there because it is from God as Christ is from God. Joseph did the righteous thing even though he was sacrificing his known existence, well-being, position, and expected future. He was physically fit and spiritually fit. His faith and personal integrity meant much more to him. What do you do when no one is looking? If you knew no one would know about your adulterous relationship, would you do it? Integrity determines whether others should or can trust us. Look at integrity as a pane of glass in a window. Just one crack means it has no integrity and could break under pressure. Just one more crack can cause one’s integrity to shatter along with life, career, family, and future. Joseph made the right decision and you can also.
Dr. Tom Cocklereece, The Disciplist
Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC. He is a pastor, author, professional coach, leadership specialist, and is a member Coach/Teacher/Speaker for the John Maxwell Team
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