As a dedicated football fan, I hate being told that “it’s just a game.”
Sure, football is a game. So is electoral politics. So were the gladiatorial contests that once made Christian martyrs. Games can be serious business.
But this much is true: you don’t want your fanhood to become a spiritual distraction. Does it matter whether my Fighting Irish qualify for college football’s first-ever post-season playoff? Absolutely! But it doesn’t matter as much as the salvation of souls. Like every other natural good, football needs to be harmonized with our larger spiritual goals.
Here then are some Bible verses for true fans to read over when preparing to enjoy a weekend of the world’s greatest sport.
1) When preparing to watch (or play) a really important game
“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62.5-8)
Here’s the most important thing to understand about football. It’s a struggle to triumph over adversity. Why is that so exciting? Because life is a struggle for victory under adverse conditions. Our real goal is salvation. But the road to salvation can be daunting, which is why we’re inspired by other instances of success under pressure.
Remind yourself before a big game: where does the real struggle lie, and who pulls us through it?
2) When your team scores a touchdown
“O Lord, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults! You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.” (Psalm 21.1-2)
I’ve never understood why some people are squeamish about praying over football. Is it something you love? Then why not thank God for the happy moments? We know that He’s the true source of strength and victory.
3) When the referees make a terrible call
“I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9.11)
One of the really satisfying things about sport is that it seems fair in a way that life normally doesn’t. Everybody knows the rules. You don’t have to be popular in order to win. But that only makes us that much more upset when the justice of the sports arena is marred by a bad call on the part of the officiators.
That’s a good time for reminding ourselves that the NFL’s justice is not equivalent to God’s, and that football, however satisfying, cannot truly offer us living water.
4) If your team seems wildly overmatched
“And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.'” (Joshua 10.8)
God frequently likes to lend a hand to the underdog. And in football as in the Bible, everyone loves a good come-from-behind story (unless your team was the one ahead).
That’s because it makes us believe that redemption is possible. Whatever the odds, bear in mind that God can deliver us from any enemy.
5) If football has become so important to you that you have trouble focusing on other details in life
“And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.” (Matthew 18.8-9)
Football is good. Hands, feet and eyes are good too. But no earthly good is important in comparison to salvation. If you aren’t able to keep your love of football in perspective, you should probably try to back away. It’s not worth losing your soul over a game.
6) If your team finally emerges victorious
“The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation, the God who gave me vengeance and brought down peoples under me, who brought me out from my enemies; you exalted me above those who rose against me; you delivered me from men of violence.
“For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing praises to your name. Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.” (2 Samuel 22.47-51)
In everything we do, we should always strive to give God the glory. Why should football be any different?