I’ve been a sports fan my entire life. That’s not an exaggeration.
My mom loves to tell the story of two-year-old me, watching the 1972 Winter Olympics. Diaper-clad, I sat transfixed as downhill skiers challenged the slopes. When the Olympic coverage ended and went to a different show, I stood up, ran to the TV, banged on the screen, and shouted, “More ki, more ki.” (I guess I had a problem pronouncing S.)
Sports have been a constant in my life when few other things have been. My mom divorced and remarried twice while I was growing up. We were CEO churchgoers (as in Christmas and Easter Only) until I was a teenager. But I played Little League baseball from age eight, starred on the basketball court from age six, and was the MVP of my middle school football team. Despite a sometimes chaotic home life, I always had quality coaches encouraging me to work hard and be my best.
Through sports, I learned about endurance, being a good teammate, obeying authorities (both coaches and referees), and setting goals.
At thirteen, I found out about God’s love. I prayed to accept Jesus’ forgiveness and dedicated my life to following Him. But my love of sports continued.
My mom bought me a book that highlighted the lives of famous Christian athletes. Reading their stories showed me how competition and Christianity worked together. Digging into God’s Word, I was drawn to the apostle Paul’s many sports analogies. I wanted to run to earn the prize, endure to the finish, and honor Christ with my abilities.
When my dreams of becoming a professional athlete were derailed by a lack of size and talent, I turned to writing about sports. During my sophomore year in high school, I started working for the city newspaper. I continued writing about high school sports throughout college and for more than twenty years after I graduated.
I saw the ups and downs of athletics. I witnessed courage, interviewed athletes after failure, and saw many of the life lessons that sports can teach.
You may not be a sports nut like me, but you probably just finished watching the Summer Olympics. Rowing, diving, biking, sprinting, basketball, gymnastics—I saw it all and cheered for the Red, White, and Blue. As I watched athletes from around the world compete for gold, I kept thinking King Solomon’s words, “How much better to get wisdom than gold, and good judgment than silver!” (Proverbs 16:16).
A couple of years ago, I met a mom whose hockey-star son had suffered two concussions, gone into a deep depression, and started doubting God. I gave her a copy of The One Year Sports Devotions for Kids. Months later, I received a letter from this mom saying that her son read the book and decided that he wanted to stay on God’s team.
That’s a wise choice. We should all be excited about being on God’s team. After all, we win in the end.
I didn’t always win on the playing field. In fact, during my junior year of high school, my basketball team went 0-17. Being on God’s team brings far more joy. When we live for God and seek wisdom, it’s way better than winning a gold medal . . . and we don’t have to wait four years to go for it!
Jesse Florea has been inducted to the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame for his sports writing. He’s cowritten several books for Tyndale, including The One Year Sports Devotions for Kids and The One Year Devos for Sports Fans.
He spends his days working at Focus on the Family, where he’s been the editor of Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse magazine (for kids eight to twelve years old) for the last twenty years.