"Shine Like Stars In The World" Philippians 2:15
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FIRST PERSON: How our family handles sports


Dave Cook

I pray my son doesn’t become the next Michael Jordan. That’s probably why our parenting looks a little funny.

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36, ESV).

Emily and I live among good outdoorsy people who love sports. Our town of 800 is crowned with a 340-acre park full of ballfields, hiking trails, a lake, and campsites. If I want to spend time with the young parents in our church, I know I can find them cheering at the ballfield. And the older my children get, the weirder it looks that they aren’t playing.


Training that’s worth everything

You’ve seen their stories on the Olympics while the broadcast switches from swimming to gymnastics: those families and hometowns who gave it all for thier little hero. Training at the highest level takes complete dedication. Olympic athletes don’t get to do what all the normal kids get to do. If they had gone to the prom instead of practicing, they wouldn’t be at the Olympics. For their whole family, this sport is what they do.

The parents pushing their children to these heights are a lesson to us. Training your children to win the race is a full-contact sport of its own.

Emily and I train our children for glory with the same ferocity. We’ll forsake every loved one, skip every birthday party, and sell our home before we neglect their training. People probably think we’re obsessed. Training for one event is what we do. But it’s a different event.

We’re training our children in the deadly event of following Jesus. We want them to know his word like Tom Brady knows the playbook. We want the motions of Jesus’ lifestyle to feel as natural to them as a proper stroke feels to Michael Phelps. And when their events are over, we want them to receive 5 unfading rings and 24 unfading medals of glory.

We aren’t training the next Isaiah Thomas. We’re training the next Isaiah.


Fitting one training schedule into another

So with every activity our family could do we ask the same question: “Is this the best way we can train our children for godliness?” Two days a week of baseball filled with winning, losing, friends, coaching, and life lessons might be part of that. Today Kids’ Zumba at the local gym is part of it.

But when the middle-school coaches ask for 50 six-day weeks a year, we can’t do it. When they tell her that “her first commitment is to her team,” we know that it isn’t. And we’ll start every season with, “just so you know, our family doesn’t do sports on Sundays or on Wednesday nights.” That means my kids will probably never get travel ball trophies, but it prepares them for a better unfading trophy.

If we wind up with the next Steph Curry on our hands, we’ll invest in him. But it will be the perfect chance to teach that Jesus is more important than basketball. His basketball training will have to fit inside his Christian training. People would probably ask, “How did he get that good without coming to Sunday tournaments?”


A better glory

I really do pray that my son doesn’t become the next Michael Jordan. I would weep over and over again if he did. Every time he walked out of the casino straight into the arena. Every time he paid a mistress to keep quiet. Every time his Nike employees called him “Yahweh.” And every game he won, because I would know it was a fading glimpse of the glory he was forfeiting.

But, oh, if he can learn the ways of Jesus, I’ll shed better tears. If he can recite 26 verses of Scripture on his last day of Kindergarten like his big sister did, I’ll sleep well. If he learns to love his neighbor, walk in wisdom, stand up for the poor, worship with gladness, live in purity, and serve Christ’s church, I’ll beam with a joy that will outshine every dad in Rio.

That’s what we’re training for. (WR)

Dave Cook is worship & discipleship pastor at Hawesville Baptist Church.

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