Does God Take a Hand in Sports?

Over the last week talk of Tim Tebow has reached fever pitch. Sports fans all across the Nation (globe?) are tuning into watch (or hate) Tim Tebow. But a question that has continued to garner attention – both from Christians and those who are less inclined toward religion – is whether God has anything to do with the outcomes of sporting events in general and Tim Tebow specifically.This question has even garnered national attention and comment from the likes of non other than super-announcer Bob Costas. (Andy Naselli has posted a helpful collection of links on the subject)

So does he? Does God have anything to do with a sport’s teams record? Don’t mistake me for a minute as an objective outsider. I am a dedicated follower of King Jesus. I am also a sports fan. But not just any sports fan. I love the Philadelphia Eagles. That is right; I love and follow the team that has never won a championship. So if God cares about sports – well you get the picture.

When we are trying to think about difficult questions like this it is often helpful to list out our options at the beginning (or at least the options that we are aware of). Here are some of the possible positions you might take if you believe in God.

  1. God doesn’t control anything. This way of thinking is deistic – that is it stems from the belief that while God started everything up he is now pretty content to let this world and his creation work itself out on his own. This of course isn’t even close to a biblical position. This is obvious from verses like Psalm 103:19 which declares “The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.” Daniel 4:35 also says “[God] does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.”
  2. Another position which has gained a lot of traction in some christian circles is the belief that “God sovereignly limits his sovereignty.” We might say it this way: God doesn’t sweat the small stuff but only handles the big things in life. The heartbeat of many who hold this position seems to be the desire to grant God a measure of Sovereignty while not interfering with the freedom of the human will. The problem is that it introduces more problems than it can answer. The first of which is where in the Bible do you see an example or statement that would allow for the belief that God limits his Sovereignty in any way? And if God limits his Sovereignty – is he really God any more? And if it is possible for God to limit and restrict his Sovereignty than who is to say he cannot restrict his holiness or his love or his justice? All that we know about God would be thrown out the window. And who is to say what are the big things and small things in life? Haven’t you seen in your life a whole host of small decisions work themselves out into surprisingly big results? So when did God take over? And how does he rate those things? On a scale from one to ten – choosing your shoes a one and choosing your spouse and career a ten? But most of all this understanding fails to deal with the biblical text at all. How else can you explain verses like Psalm 33:11 “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations”; Psalm 115:3 “Our God is in the heavens he does whatever he pleases”; Provers 16:4 “The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble”; and Isaiah 14:24 “the Lord of hosts has sworn: ‘As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” And honestly – that is just the tip of the iceberg. The reality is that the Bible portrays the Sovereignty of God as unlimited. What this means is that God is truly and absolutely free in everything.
  3. So that leaves us with basically one other position (I realize that some of you will recognize that there are other sub-positions). This is simply that God is sovereign over everything – even sporting events. So God does care about whether Tim Tebow wins or loses because God is the one ultimately behind the winning or losing of the Denver Broncos. Is there any scripture to back up this idea that God is over everything – including the outcome of a sporting event? You bet. Check out Proverbs 16:33 “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision of of the Lord.” That is pretty clear! Check out these passages below on God’s Sovereignty.
  • God is Sovereign over Nature: Ps. 104:10-30; 135:6-7; Luke 8:25
  • God is Sovereign over History: Dan. 2:21; Acts 17:26
  • God is Sovereign over Nations: Dan 4:34-35; Isaiah 14:26-27
  • God is Sovereign over Our Lives: Jer. 1:5; Ps. 139:13-16; 1 Sam. 2:6-7
  • God is Sovereign over Our Decisions: Gen. 45:5-8; Ex. 9:16; 14:4 [cf. Rom. 9:17]; Ps. 33:15; Prov. 16:1, 9; 19:21; 21:1; Isaiah 44:28; Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23-24
  • God is Sovereign over “accidents” and matters of chance: Ex. 21:12-13; Prov. 16:33; 2 Kings 22:20
  • fGod is Sovereign over Sin and Evil: Amos 3:6; Ps. 105:24; Ex. 3:19 [cf. 4:21; 7:3, 13; 9:12; Rom. 9:17-18]; Prov. 16:4; Isa. 6:9-10; 63:17; Judg. 14:4; 2 Sam. 24; Rom. 1:24-28; Acts 2:23; 4:28; James 1:13-14, 1 John 2:16 [though he is not the author of sin: Hab. 1:13; Deut. 32:4; James 1:13-14; 1 John 2:16]

I realize that these verses create within our minds a whole host of questions – and I want to affirm that that is a good thing. A faith that does not push the boundaries of our understanding is not a faith worth having. And just because we have questions about something doesn’t mean it is wrong – otherwise we wouldn’t have the doctrine of the Trinity or anything really. And when you find yourself tempted to question God – remember Isaiah 45:9-10 which says “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’? Woe to the one who says to a father, ‘What have you begotten?’ or to a mother, ‘What have you brought to birth?’

And then I have got to post this just because it was awesome!

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