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CORONAVIRUS & THE SPORTSPERSON

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said earlier in 2020 “Some things are more important than football and we realise that in this moment. We need time to find a solution for [the coronavirus].

In a period of raging uncertainty in the world as a whole, sport is a small part within the discussions authorities are having around how to deal with Covid-19. For athletes for whom sport is their livelihood however, how are they to cope in the midst of all the confusion and the inability to predict what even tomorrow might bring?

For those aiming towards the Olympics, where every day of the last four years has been planned meticulously, how do you cope when there is every reason to doubt whether the Games will take place as planned in the summer? For footballers who have been playing all year to win the league, to gain promotion or avoid relegation, how are they to deal with the conversations around postponements and cancellations?

Not only is there uncertainty and confusion to deal with, but also a real sense of anxiety and fear around the virus. How bad will it get? The truth is we do not know for sure.

For the Christian sportsperson though, we can have a different outlook to the world’s attitude of panic and fear as we remember important truths at this time.

We can echo the prayer of Jehosophat in 2 Chronicles 20:12:

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 

Here are three truths to remember as we ponder the coronavirus as sportspeople and live amongst our teammates, and as we deal with uncertainty and fear in general.

1. GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL

In Matthew 10:29 Jesus reminds us

are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.

Just because it seems like chaos reigns and no one knows what is going to happen next, it does not mean that God doesn’t, or that he has in any sense lost control.

So the call, as in the prayer above, is not to be anxious and worry. It’s been said that 90 percent of the things we worry or become panicked about never happen, and the other 10 percent are outside our control.

Worrying about the Coronavirus, about its effect on the short term or in the case of top level athletes, potentially their careers, will not help. Jesus calls us not to worry but instead to respond with prayer and faith in him (Matthew 6:33-34). We don’t need to worry because God is still God, and we know the one who has defeated sin and death.

2. GOD STILL CARES

God knows you intimately – he knows about your athletic goals, your aspirations for medals this summer or promotion in the spring. He knows about your long-term plans and short-term dreams. He knows and he cares.

In the midst of difficulties it can be easy to distance God from it because that’s easier to deal with. We maybe see suffering as not part of God’s plan, as a result of sin or randomness. Of course it is difficult to see how God is working for our good in suffering, but the Bible is clear that he is still involved in it.

In Romans 8 Paul says

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.

In all things, God is working for the good of those who have put their trust in him. He is making you more like Jesus in the midst of this time of uncertainty and fear.

So ask him what he is teaching you at this time as you try and see what good he is allowing to happen in the midst of this crisis. He still loves you and cares for you, even if his plans and definition of “good” seem completely opposite to ours at the moment.

3. YOU CAN STILL WORSHIP GOD THROUGH YOUR SPORT

Just because competition may be postponed or training thrown up in the air, our call to be a people who worship God through our sport does not change.

Throughout all of history Christians have often been distinctive in how they have been willing to help the sick even in the midst of plagues and pandemics.

They were able to do this because they had no fear of death – they understood the words of Paul when he says “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21) So what might it look like for you to be someone who loves your neighbours radically at this time? Who looks out for the needs of others?

Ultimately, as we are faced with death around us and in the news, it forces us to confront our mortality and that of our friends too. Will this drive you to speak more boldly of Jesus in your club, team or within your training group? Sin is more deadly than the coronavirus, so it remains essential that we point people towards Jesus in whom alone hope is found.

In Revelation we are reminded of the glorious truth of what heaven will be like:

“‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Pray for your teammates and speak to them of Jesus who alone can offer this glorious hope.

Finally, keep using the gifts and talents the Lord has given you to play your sport in whatever way you can until such a time as you have more certainty. Train hard now, using every ounce of yourself to worship God in your sport. And do this knowing the freedom that, whether you are able to compete or not, your identity is not found in your performance, but in what Jesus has done for us through his death and resurrection.