rebelling against low expectations

5 Things We Can Learn About Following Jesus from Playing Sports

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“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” (Hebrews 12:1).

Do you play a sport? Do you know someone who does?

If so, you know what it takes. Playing sports is hard.

Sometimes you don’t want to keep going—but you continue because you know the victory at the end will be worth it.

Being a Christian is similar to playing a sport. In Hebrews 12, Paul describes following Jesus as running a difficult race. But the Bible tells us that following Jesus is worth it, and we will be rewarded for it—we’ll get to spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus!

Being a Christian is like playing a sport. Sometimes you don’t want to keep going—but you continue because you know the victory at the end will be worth it. Click To Tweet

Here are 5 similarities between following Jesus and playing a sport, and what we can learn from this comparison:

1. It Requires Perseverance, Dedication, and Discipline

As we’ve already established, sports are hard. There are times you feel you don’t have any energy left, your body is sore, and you must force yourself to move.

Similarly, there are times when Christians feel they don’t have any energy left to live for God, times that are so hard, stressful, and exhausting that it hurts to keep going.

Luke 9:23 tells us to take up our cross daily and deny ourselves to follow Jesus. It requires discipline and perseverance to do that. It also takes dedication—we won’t keep taking up our cross and denying ourselves daily if we aren’t doing it out of true commitment to Jesus.

Hebrews 12:3-5 and James 1:12 encourage us to endure and remain steadfast during trials. James 1:12 also says we will gain a reward for persevering! The Bible says the benefits of perseverance and discipline far outweigh the effort it takes.

Though living for Jesus takes hard work, He will provide all we need to keep going.

2. Utilize Your Equipment

Almost every sport has unique equipment that helps its players perform the best they can. Swimmers have goggles, runners have special shoes, and so on. The equipment is necessary for the sport. Imagine playing soccer without a soccer ball—you wouldn’t be able to play correctly. We need the right equipment to play the game well.

In the same way, Christians need special equipment so we can live out the gospel. Ephesians 6:11 says to “put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”

The armor of God includes the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:14-17). This is our equipment in our “competition”—the battle against the devil.

Other aids in the Christian life are the Holy Spirit and the Bible.

Every word in the Bible is true and from God. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The Bible is instruction from God Himself and can help us immensely.

Jesus also sent the Holy Spirit to help us, teach us, and guide us. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). What a gift to have the Holy Spirit, who is one of the Trinity, living in us!

3. Listen to Your Coach and Teammates

If you play a sport, you probably have a coach who trains you, creates workouts for you, and prepares you for meets or competitions. Your coach will challenge you, but that’s because they care about you and want you to get better at your sport. Your coach also advises and encourages you.

Similarly, we have a God who will allow us to go through trials and challenges in order to strengthen our faith. He allows us to go through difficulty because He wants to see us grow.

God tells us how to handle trials in the Bible. He encourages Christians to pray instead of worry, and to pray constantly (Phillipians 4:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17). And He instructs us to be patient (Romans 12:12).

If you play a sport, you probably also have teammates who cheer you on and strive for the same goals. Likewise, as believers we can greatly encourage one another because we are all striving for the same thing—to serve Christ and share the Gospel.

4. Prepare and Train

People who play sports spend hours practicing so when a competition arrives, they can perform well. Practice is hard work. But athletes know practice is important because diligent work results in improvement.

Making time for God and the church can be difficult—more difficult than giving your all at practice. But spending alone time with God prepares us for trials and opportunities that God gives us. If we spend time building relationships with other believers and strengthening our relationship with God, we will be prepared when an opportunity to serve Christ comes.

Doing little hard things, like being patient instead of getting angry or doing chores to help our family when we really don’t want to, prepares us for doing big hard things. Little hard things may seem insignificant in the moment, but they can be challenging, and we can grow from them.

Luke 16:10 says, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.”

Are you remaining faithful in the little things? Just like attending practice is necessary to get better at the sport, spending time with Jesus and serving Him regularly is necessary to grow in our faith and prepare for trials.

Just like attending practice is necessary to get better at the sport, spending time with Jesus and serving Him regularly is necessary to grow in our faith and prepare for trials. Click To Tweet

5. Remember There Are Seasons

Many sports are played in a certain season, like football (played in the fall) or basketball (a winter sport). However, athletes still train off-season so they can perform better in the next season.

There are also sports that are played the whole year. I swim, and our only break is in the month of August. However, we still have hard phases and rest phases. We rest before big meets and sometimes take time to focus on our technique instead of doing sprint sets.

In the Christian life, there are seasons when we will go through intense trials. We may struggle with our mental health, face the same temptation over and over, or feel distant from God. However, there are also seasons of spiritual high. When we feel on-fire for the Lord, are serving Him to the best of our ability, and feel closer than ever to God.

No matter what season we’re in, whether a season of fruit-bearing or a season of trial, we should remember that “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). We can trust God in every season because like the Psalmist, our times are in His hands (Psalm 31:15).

Christ Our Reward

We get the most out of our sport if we put our all into it. We need to put our all into living for Jesus, too.

Let’s run the race set before us with perseverance, dedication, and discipline. Let’s use the resources God has given us, follow the guidance of our “Coach,” and soak up encouragement from our “teammates.”

Let’s prepare well for the opportunities the Lord gives us and remain steadfast throughout the seasons of our faith. And let’s fix our eyes on Jesus—our great reward!


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About the author

Isabella Daou

is a 15-year-old writer who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her family. She fell in love with Jesus a year ago. When she’s not writing, you can find her at swim practice, playing outside with her siblings, or spending time with friends. Check out her blog here

1 comment

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  • Amen! I especially liked the point about practice—practicing something always helps, and I need to remember that for the little temptations I face. Great article, Isabella!

rebelling against low expectations

The Rebelution is a teenage rebellion against low expectations—a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things. Learn More →