The Year in Sports at Desiring God

Let the record show that we did not set out in 2012 to write more often about sports at Desiring God than previous years.

But as we’ve looked back on the last year, we noticed an uptick in our engagement with “the world of sports.” This trend doesn’t represent any new commitment on our part for the years ahead. It does, however, represent our great goal to see Jesus honored “in all things.” It’s the “supremacy of God in all things” part of our mission that keeps leading us here and elsewhere. We want to see Jesus honored and enjoyed in life and death, and in every nook and cranny of our existence — including sports and athletics.

The Cardinals and LinSanity

After doing some digging, it seems the last year of sports-related posts may have its origin in late 2011. It was some World Series reflections by Jonathan Parnell that proved a harbinger of things to come. In November 2011, Jonathan, a long-time and big-time St. Louis Cardinals fan, wrote about “The Cross and the St. Louis Cardinals” after the team’s memorable death and resurrection en route to the world title.

Throughout the Fall of 2011, we stayed quiet about Tim Tebow, but when Jeremy Lin exploded on the scene in February of 2012, it was time to talk. John Piper’s son Barnabas (who helpfully notes, “Sports serves remarkably to both help us escape and bring us back to reality”) sent us a video of Lin testifying to the impact of John’s book Don’t Waste Your Life. We quoted from that video the night that LinSanity hit fever pitch, with the game-winning three-pointer, in the post “All Spheres of Life — Even Pro Basketball.” Here’s the line from Lin that excited us most: “God created us to live with a single passion to joyfully display his supreme excellence in all the spheres of life.”

March Madness and Major League Baseball

March Madness hit the following month, and we tapped Matt Reagan, Bethlehem elder and campus director for Campus Outreach at the University of Minnesota, just a few blocks from the Desiring God offices. Matt’s a big sports fan and has long counseled student-athletes on the college campus. He agreed to write up some thoughts for us that became the post “March Madness, Athletic Achievement, and Christians in Competitive Sports.”

It wasn’t till May that sport made its next cameo at the DG blog (if you overlook our little attempt to make a lineup card out of the nine T4G speakers). This time it was Texas Ranger Josh Hamilton. After hitting four homeruns in a single game, he did an interview with ESPN in which they asked him about his former drug addition and how he stays clean. Hamilton answered with the basic Christian “means of grace” in essentially the same categories that theologian John Frame uses in Salvation Belongs to the Lord: Bible, prayer, and fellowship. The post was called “Josh Hamilton, Relapse, and the Means of Grace.”

A June exposition on Philippians 4:11–13 then made some sports references (“Jesus: Lord of Feast and Famine, Homeruns and Strikeouts”) and sought to save this important text from some well-meaning, but ill-informed, athletic uses.

The Olympics Games

July and August brought the Summer Olympiad in London. The connections between the Olympics and the Christian faith are pretty plain, thanks especially to the apostle Paul. We were all in, and building on Piper’s sermon series “Olympic Spirituality,” we posted four times on the Games during their 17 days:

Willingham and Thoennes

September was quiet — or perhaps just overshadowed by the beginning of football season. But October brought “Sports in the Age to Come,” based on an especially provocative quote, and explanation, from Piper: “I think there will be sports in the age to come.”

At the end of October, we posted twice on Minnesota Twins slugger Josh Willingham, who had joined us for an interview at the DG offices just a few weeks prior. The articles on Willingham were called “A Big Leaguer Who Learned to Lean on God” and “Ordinary Life for an Extraordinary Athlete.” Just a few hours after posting the second one, we learned that Willingham was given a Silver Slugger Award for 2012 as one of the three top-hitting outfielders in the American League.

Finally, just this month, our Theology Refresh podcast made its first (and perhaps only?) foray into the sports world. We talked with pastor and professor (and former football player and coach) Erik Thoennes about “The Christian and Sport.” For athletes and other serious sports enthusiasts, the best big-picture perspectives on play and competition from the year came in Matt Reagan’s post and in the interview with Erik Thoennes.

Where to from Here?

So, again, we’re making no promises about continued sports-related content in 2013 and beyond. Maybe the Adrian Peterson graphic at the top this post is the last good sports shot you’ll see at the site for a while. We’ll see how God leads us in the days to come.

But what we can promise, God helping us, is that we’ll keep seeking to apply a God-centered perspective to as much of life and reality as God gives us energy for. We thank Jesus for all our readers who so joyfully share with us in this great pursuit of aiming to spread a passion for God’s supremacy in all things.