EDITOR’S NOTE:  The following is an excerpt from Game Day for the Glory of God by Stephen Altrogge (Crossway).

CHAPTER ONE

A Life For the Glory of God

Some moments are frozen in history and burned upon our mind’s eye. Moments of ecstatic victory and of heartbreaking defeat. We can see them as clearly as if they happened yesterday. With incredible clarity we can see Michael Jordan using a crossover dribble to free himself from coverage, then draining the game-winning jump shot against the Utah Jazz in game six of the 1998 NBA Finals. We remember Joe Carter thrusting both hands skyward and joyfully leaping into the air after hitting a home run to win the World Series in 1993. Or who can forget the precision-perfect touchdown pass thrown by Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antwaan Randle El to a wide-open Hines Ward in the 2006 Super Bowl?

Of course, not all is glory in the world of sports. We remember the heartbreaks just as well. Tennessee Titans fans shudder when they hear the name Mike Jones. Jones crushed the Titans’ hopes of a Super Bowl XXXIV victory when he wrapped his arms around Titans wideout Kevin Dyson as Dyson lunged for what would have been the game-winning touchdown. Pittsburgh Pirate fans curse and spit when they hear the name Francisco Cabrera. It was Cabrera who single-handedly dashed the Pirates’ bid for a trip to the 1992 World Series with a clutch pinch-hit single in the bottom of the ninth inning of the National League Championship Series.

We have our own moments of glory and defeat as well. Winning a pickup basketball game with a fadeaway three-pointer. Letting the winning goal slip through our hands in a game of soccer. Running a marathon for the first time. Trying to run a marathon but collapsing in exhaustion before the finish. We cherish the victories and cringe at the defeats.

We live in a world that has fallen madly in love with sports. Every year hundreds of millions of people gather together to play and watch and talk about sports. There are magazines devoted to baseball, football, chess, badminton, poker, Uno, and every other sport imaginable. Stadiums are packed to maximum capacity. Teams that win a championship are given a victory parade and treated like war heroes. Men come together every Saturday to engage in fierce combat on an asphalt battlefield called a basketball court. We seek to improve our holiness and our batting average in church softball leagues. Professional athletes are idolized, and small children can be seen sporting jerseys of their favorite players. Students at the University of West Virginia light couches on fire after thrilling victories. We live in a society that is absolutely crazy about sports, and for many people, sports are their life.

Sports are not merely a modern phenomenon either. For thousands of years athletes have come together to engage in fierce competition. In ancient Rome massive, bloodthirsty crowds would gather to watch gladiators hack each other to pieces with swords. The Olympics were born in ancient Greece, and according to legend the first marathon was also run in ancient Greece. Scripture itself mentions sports in 1 Corinthians 9:24 where Paul says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.”

There is something mystical, almost supernatural about sports. Something that resonates deep within our hearts. Victory gives us goose bumps and brings us to the verge of tears. We watch in hushed awe as men and women perform athletic feats that seem to defy the laws of physics. Our love for sports often transcends race and politics. We instinctively root for the underdog and are delighted when a weaker team upsets a stronger team. Statistics are our lifeblood. We sometimes have trouble remembering the birthdays of our children but have no problem remembering that Nolan Ryan pitched seven no-hitters. Sports touch us at a deep level, engaging both our hearts and our minds.