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“Knowing Christ is the best thing that has ever happened to me, although winning the US Open was a pretty good second.”

Alison Nicholas

The Christian Athlete

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Brian Smith, Colorado Springs, David C Cook, 2022. ISBN 978-0-8307-8325-0

As most of my readers will be in the UK. I need to say that this book is 100% written into the US college sports culture. The book seems to addressed to the US College athlete who plays in front of a crowd and then stops playing on leaving college – none of which applies to a typical British Christian sportsperson.

The book states its aim as “to biblically shape the way you think about your sport and present a practical approach to having a God-centered perspective for every challenge the world of athletics throws at you”.

There is much in the book that is helpful like the portrayal of sport as a gift from God to be enjoyed. I resonated with his argument that the Christian player should be the hardest worker, most servant-hearted player in the team. See our Born to play

for a similar argument. I loved the statement: “With our identity and motivation firmly grounded in Christ, we are not shaken by the outcome of a competition. We become free to compete without the fear of failure”.

I was pleased to see the author dismiss a common interpretation of Philippians 4:13, that the verse promises superhuman sporting powers to the Christian players, as a lie. Again the author’s stress on the importance of not expecting sport to deliver ultimate happiness is helpful.

The discussion of giving God glory through our play is interesting but what he calls “a dangerous link between earthly success and the primary way God is glorified” is probably more of an issue in the USA than in UK.

Brian Smith is on the staff of Athletes in Action and - perhaps – as a result often defaults to sport as a means of evangelism rather than a gift of God to be enjoyed for its own sake. When he writes of sport as “a cultural megaphone that we can leverage for God’s glory” or “leveraging, a platform for God’s glory by sharing the gospel with a crowd” or “leverage your platform as an athlete” and “hopefully this book has encouraged you to leverage your sport way that glorifies God while you play it”, I was left wondering if he saw intrinsic value in sport as a gift from or only extrinsic value in terms of platform and leverage.

Perhaps this is another aspect of American culture that I fail to understand but phrases like “when your sport is over” and “mourn the loss of your sport” and a chapter on retirement from sport seemed bewildering from my perspective.

Not a bad book but spoiled for me by the emphasis on the extrinsic value of sport.

Stuart Weir, aged 73, still playing two or three times a week!

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