• Jonathan Nazigian

A THEOLOGY OF LIVE SPORTS: Fear Gives Way to the God of the Future


My kids roll their eyes whenever I talk about it, but modern technology never ceases to amaze me. They get a kick out of my “when-I-was-your-age” stories, and always ask me to tell them more about what it was like being in the cave and going to school with Noah and Moses.

Case in point, the other night, my son and I were watching the NHL playoffs, and cheering on our Philadelphia Flyers. At one point in the middle of the game, with the score tied 1-1, we paused the game for about five minutes. (Pausing live TV…amazing!) When we were ready to resume the game, we clicked the “Play” arrow and the action picked up again. But I was curious now, knowing that the “live” game we were watching was really a few minutes behind the actual game occurring in real time. So, I quietly reached for my phone and looked up the game score (Another amazing thing we can do now . . . but, I digress). I saw that the Flyers now led 2-1 and noted the time.

“I think the Flyers are going to score soon,” I declared. “In fact, I guarantee it!”

My son was intrigued by my prognostication for all of about one second.

“Dad, get off your phone. I don’t want to know what’s going to happen. Just let me enjoy it!”

“Fine . . . But they are definitely going to score sometime in the next 45 seconds.” Which, of course, they did. And I became a prophetic legend in my home. (Commence the eye rolling.)

There was something intriguing about the two ways we were watching the game. When the game was truly “live,” we were on the edge of our seats, excited, but nervous. What was going to happen? We’d flinch at every shot on our goal and then relax as the puck moved safely away toward the other end. We had no idea what was coming and because we wanted the win so badly, we were in fear of losing.

But on delay—when we knew for sure that a goal was coming—we watched with a lot more confidence. The tension was gone. The fear was gone. We didn’t know who was going to score the goal, or exactly when it was going to happen, but we knew that the “future” was already set in place. We could sit back and enjoy the game with a completely different mindset.

Right now, people are living in fear. Months into a global pandemic, weeks from a contentious election, months into protests and riots, decades into racial injustice, and millennia into our fallen world’s sinful state, fear and anxiety abound. Those without Christ are still without hope, and even those of us who know Christ still struggle with our sin nature, and a mind that defaults toward fear.

But good theology anchors us to reality.

God assures us through Isaiah:

Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; Isaiah 46:8-10 (NASB)

God assures us through Peter:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV)

God knows the future. And better still, He controls the future. God, as the Creator of time, is outside of time and sees it all in one glance.

The great 20th century thinker, C.S. Lewis explains it this way in his classic Mere Christianity:

Our life comes to us moment by moment. One moment disappears before the next comes along: and there is room for very little in each. That is what Time is like. And of course you and I tend to take it for granted that this Time series--this arrangement of past, present, and future--is not simply the way life comes to us but the way all things really exist. We tend to assume that the whole universe and God himself are always moving on from past to future just as we do. . . . Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life does not consist of moments following one another. . .

If you picture Time as a straight line along which we have to travel, then you must picture God as the whole page on which the line is drawn. We come to the parts of the line one by one: we have to leave A behind before we get to B, and cannot reach C until we leave B behind. God, from above or outside or all around, contains the whole line, and sees it all.

God showed exiled Daniel the future. Not every date and detail, but enough to clearly establish that to God, the future has already occurred. He is sovereign. He reigns.

God showed exiled John the future. Not every daily event that we will encounter, but a vision that proves that there are no surprise happenings in the universe that God masterfully rules.

And we are in exile too. This crazy world is not our home. And until we are home, we can rest secure in God’s complete and unflinching foreknowledge and sovereignty. We need not fear the future. We need not fear the pandemic, nor the election, nor anything. God has it fully under control.

He’s about to score the game-ending, series-winning, championship goal. And we know it’s coming.

Of course, this is not an excuse to sit back and do nothing. God may be outside of time, but we are not. God expects us to live “making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16 (NIV) We are to live obediently, to live faithfully, to make biblical decisions, to seek justice, to speak the truth in love, to share the Gospel, to make the world better for His glory.

And we can do all of this without fear. We need only concern ourselves with our faithful steps of obedience, not with the end results.

Those are, as always, in God’s capable hands.

Share your thoughts and comments with the author at jonathan@allthingsintegrated.org

Take a moment for Integrated Reflection:

Follower of Christ:

  • Have you taken your eyes off Christ in these strange times? Have you sunken into worry?

  • Which passages of Scripture can you rest in today?

Christian Educator:

  • How can you highlight God’s foreknowledge and sovereignty to your students?

  • What are some things your students are fearing? Take time to pray over them with your students.

Honest Seeker:

  • Does the world seem right to you? Do you think it has always been this way?

  • Have you ever considered the prophetic accuracy of the Bible as evidence of its credibility?