Guest Post by Chris Sutherland- Member @ Brookstone Church
In a recent ESPN sports article, Tim Keown quoted professional boxer Manny Pacquiao on his recent victory at age 40.
“The ability I have is not my own. God gave me this ability to continue. I believe I am here to inspire the fans and be a role model to everyone as a follower of God the Lord Jesus Christ.”
In part, Pacquiao’s quote succinctly summarizes author David Prince’s book, In the Arena. Pacquiao’s mission as an athlete is to glorify God as he competes in boxing. His purpose as God’s creation is to honor God and praise him for his glory. His platform of praise is boxing. In his book, Prince suggests that the purpose of any athletic competition is to honor God. Yet, beyond this 30,000 foot view, Prince’s essays dive deeper into who (athlete, parent, fan, coach, etc.) can honor God, what (skill, behavior, attitude, etc.) can honor God, when and where (time and place) God can be honored, and how (strategies and applications) God can be honored.
Do You Want to Read this Book?
So, let’s get this question out of the way. Yes! If you are or were an athlete, if you are the father or mother of an athlete, if you are or were a coach, if you are a pastor, and if you are simply a fan and love sports, then you will enjoy and appreciate the spiritual insights and wisdom in this book.
Cliff Notes Version
The author clearly states the book’s two purposes. “First, I will examine sports from a biblical–theological perspective. Second, I will practically examine how sports provide a limited but genuine window that can help us apply our lives to the gospel story revealed in Scripture” (7).
The book accomplishes these two purposes. In a series of 7 stand-alone essays (there are 7 chapters), Price lays out his arguments and his evidence. He uses football stories. (God, please forgive him for being an Alabama Crimson Tide fan…smile.) He uses baseball stories. And, he uses personal life stories. He was a high school football and baseball coach; plus, he has eight kids.
From these contexts, Price generates essays with supporting details from his life which help illustrate his ideas and explanations. He also provides practical everyday applications in several chapters. And most important, he includes solid scripture-based references in each of his chapters which underpin and support his ideas, explanations, and applications. Athletes, fathers, mothers, coaches, pastors, and others will appreciate the fact that you can read the book in its entirety. Or, one can read each chapter or essay as stand-alone entities. No matter the method, readers will walk away with insights, advice, strategies, and ideas which will help them live out the command of Colossians 3:17.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Sports is a tool to redeem culture. “Sporting competition can provide a limited but genuine opportunity to honor God and love one’s neighbor” (27).
Whether a fan, a coach, or an athlete, Christians should be salt and light in the sports culture.
Sports can reflect traits we need in spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is about embracing our failures and letting God become our strength.
Sports can be the teaching ground for our children’s biblical discipleship.
When everybody is a winner; nobody wins. Sports can teach correct self-esteem.
Over-zealous safety can choke out the gospel message. Failing to take chances for Christ results in an ineffective gospel story.
Sports can teach moral courage to share and live the gospel as demonstrated by the lives of Branch Ricky and Jackie Robinson.
Final Scouting Report
In the Arena reminds the reader that
“Christ is to be the Christian’s identity, context, center, and end; so all other desires, including sporting desires, are subordinate to Christ” (53).
This reminder is a Christian worldview. And, it is a worldview or perspective that begs deep consideration of the athlete, parent, coach, and/or anyone who embraces life. Or, as a G.K. Chesterton’s poem states,
You say grace before meals,
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before the concert and the
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing:
And grace before I dipped the pen in the ink.