Sports matches are often decided by centimetres and seconds. The throw one centimetre too far means the ball misses the mark; the run made one second too late means the ball isn’t caught. The blink of an eye at the wrong time means the referee/umpire doesn’t see a game-defining moment.
Two Bible passages help me when it comes to sport. The first is this one:
“The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)
You can shed blood, sweat and tears to becoming the best player or the best team, but sometimes cruel a blow means you don’t win the games that you should. Time and chance happen to us all. Does that mean all your hard work is worth nothing? If sports victory is all that you want, then ‘yes’. But there is no life in that approach, even when you win.
The second helpful Bible passage is actually to do with money, but I think we could substitute ‘sport’ as it equally applies:
Command those who are ‘good at sport’ in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in ‘sporting expertise’, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who ‘rather sportingly’ provides us with everything for our enjoyment. (My adaptation of 1Timothy 6:17)
Let us enjoy our sport – the sweaty training sessions, the hard runs, the satisfying moments in a game, the highs of victory and the lows of defeat. Let us enjoy it all! But let us give thanks to God that the more important things in life are not subject to ‘time and chance’. Let us give thanks that, in following Jesus, there is a victory to be had that has nothing to do with the bounce of a ball.