Competitive. Aggressive. Physical injury. Heightened emotions. Dangerous loyalty.
Those are descriptions that come to mind when I think of the sport of football. Words that don’t immediately come to mind are Christian community, team bible study, and faith. Yes, there are exceptions, but in general it can be easy to overlook the spirituality of a football team when the sport is seen through the lens of the first set of descriptors.
I’m not a particularly passionate football fan, but I became interested in this topic when the Eagles won the NFC Championship last week. If you don’t know, this season the Eagles, led by star quarterback Carson Wentz, were favored for the Super Bowl. The excitement was tangible, yet midway through the season Wentz was injured, and hope waned. Despite the setback, the Eagles persevered and won the NFC. The underdog story of the Eagles facing the goliath Patriots in this year’s Super Bowl could warrant its own blog, but what I’d prefer to explore is the team’s consistent faith throughout trials and triumph.
When reading about the Eagles, I came across a fascinating article on the spiritual devotion of the players. Players like Wentz, WR Torrey Smith, and Safety Chris Maragos all shared their testimonies with reporters. Wentz and Smith found their faith in college from their mentors and teammates, and Maragos had his awakening in high school after a “downward spiral.” Other members are involved as well, and Wentz described how the team gets together for weekly bible studies and prayer the night before games.
The way these players talk about their faith and share it with their teammates is inspiring. In such a brutal and pressure-filled sport, having the ability to turn to God and find comfort in Him can really make all the difference. During stressful times, such as the recent Championship, Smith said, “…you’re able to talk about it among your brothers, among your family, it helps you grow. And when you realize that you can apply biblical principles to [stressful times], it helps us all grow.” Maragos agreed, “…we want to support each other in our lives through the difficulties off the field as well as on the field… we’re all just kind of binding together to kind of keep each other sharpened and keep pushing forward.”
His use of the word “sharpened” makes me think back to Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” The friendship and fellowship these men provide one another helps make them stronger, and has kept them positive throughout the difficult season. As they head to the Super Bowl, fans and players alike are anxious for a win, but Wentz reminds us, and his team, what’s really important, “I think wins, losses, highs, lows — everything that comes with this game — it’s so easy to take your mind and your eyes off of the ultimate prize, and that’s living for the Lord.”
“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8).