This post is part of a 11 week blog series that highlights the many ways we worship the triune God.
As you read this blog, I sincerely pray you will:
- See recreation as a gift from God and that it can be celebrated as part of His love for you.
- Learn to refine a lasting faith that depends on Christ.
- Be encouraged to express adoration for, enjoyment with and obedience to God.
- Love one another and rest in fruitfulness as the prize.
In writing this blog, I had the honour to sit down for an interview with Nicolaas Kuit who has been one of the leaders of “Westside Outdoors” since Feb 2016. Nick is an avid competitive curler here in BC and enjoys many outdoor activities including cycling and running. Neither of us had done an interview before, so like any experienced outdoorsman Nick “checked the map” before taking his first steps. “If we are framing sport through the lens of worship, what is the definition of ‘worship’?” he asked. I politely reminded him that I was the interviewer and asked him to take a crack at defining it. Worship was a word he had not necessarily attributed to sport, but as the Spirit helped him express his heart two general ideas formed. Sport is a gift or a talent from God that resonated “the parable of the talents” deep within him, and Nick’s expression of worship through sport was linked to obedience. His associating sport to obedience can be traced to 2013 when Christ became Lord of his life. As always when Christ is involved, everything changed.
GOD LOVES US IN OUR PLAY
Like many Vancouverites, Nick engaged in an active lifestyle to keep himself fit and healthy. Other motivations of a deeper nature come naturally to us in sport: acceptance, envy, guilt or loss, to name a few. The truth is that without God our motivations are always self-serving. It’s what comes naturally to us. Nick remembers being primarily drawn to the adrenaline and sensory pleasure of sport. This motivation flowed out of his sense of identity and feelings of entitlement. Nick’s body was his own to do with as he pleased, and it felt greatest when he was experiencing the rush of physical activity. When Nick surrendered his life to Christ, the Holy Spirit began to work in him, producing many convictions. But the Spirit didn’t remove his love for sport or curtail his enjoyment. The Spirit changed Nick’s idea of who he was, changing the nature of his motivations. He was now a man designed and built by a Creator, purchased by God’s love revealed through Christ. Sport became an expression of thankfulness, a reminder of grace, and an act of freedom in Christ. Nick’s feeling of entitlement gave way to a sense of opportunity to express the love of Christ. It eventually connected him to community at Westside and led him to many others who were experiencing God’s love through sport. We can receive God’s love as we worship through sport.
[Reference: Galatians 5:13-22, Colossians 1:15-23, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20]
OUR STRENGTH COMES FROM THE LORD
When we build on the foundation that God loves us through sport, it is easy to see that God wants to participate in it with us. Don’t we rely on Him for every breath we take? Since 2013 this has been a growing area of understanding for Nick, and the Lord has been very gracious to give him skill and keep his body running well. Every curling shot Nick makes, every purposeful stride he takes on a trail run is an opportunity to connect to God and thank Him for His blessings. As in the parable of the talents, Nick wants to use the skill and health he is given to the best of his ability. He doesn’t want to waste the gift and hide it away. This understanding has recently led Nick to leadership in Westside Outdoors, which God has also used to demonstrate Nick’s dependence on Him. In one instance he had not been able to confirm attendance numbers for a curling event and sixteen people exactly were needed to make it work. Nick could do nothing but pray and miraculously sixteen people exactly showed up. We can hope in the strength of the Lord as we worship through sport.
[References: Philippians 4:13, Deuteronomy 31:6, Isaiah 41:10]
OUR JOY IN HIM IS HIS PLEASURE
With God in sport, Nick’s motivations continued to change. He made a personal choice to drop triathlons, preferring activities he could do with others. Winning and achievement progressively became less of a focus and deeper discussion with others during activities became more frequent. Despite these changes his enjoyment was not diminishing; it was increasing, and he was hungry for opportunities to connect with others and share God’s love. Nick’s love for sport had now partnered with his love for God and others, which had altered his pattern of life. His daily routine changed: it now included morning walks and afternoon activities. And it wasn’t just changing his life. He encouraged his brother to try trail running with him, which has been positive for his brother’s health and their relationship. I witnessed Nick say with a smile that long car rides with his curling teammates, or commutes to Westside Outdoors events (I will add with randomly selected participants, as random selection is something Nick started to embrace the Lord’s work in those times) have become moments of joy. We can enjoy both God and sport more as we worship through sport.
[References: Colossians 3:17, Ecclesiastes 2:22-26, Philippians 2:3-4]
ONLY IN CHRIST IS THERE PEACE
Nick’s understanding of obedience as worship is rooted in the Spirit’s work in sanctifying him through sport. The bulk of our interview was spent in this area, with many stories of the Spirit intervening to convict him of behaviours, attitudes and thoughts previously unnoticed. When Nick goes on a trail run and someone can’t keep the pace, should he run anyway or walk with the one that has fallen behind? When a car cuts him off on his bike, does he swear or hurl insults in anger? When someone gets sick at an event and needs support, will he answer the call to lend his car to take them home? On a long kayaking trip, when the surface conversation peels back and the heart is exposed, do the right words come out in love and gentleness? Obedience to the Spirit in these situations is Nick’s worship to the Father, his response to God’s love for him and God’s gifts of strength and joy. Nick knows his responses to these situations have changed since Christ and the Spirit entered his life. We can have peace resting in the finished work of Christ and the Spirit’s continuing work within us.
[References: 2 Timothy 2:21, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, 2 Peter 1:2-4]
Jonathan Haines grew up in Kelowna and moved to the Lower Mainland in 2001. He has been attending Westside since 2012 and serves on the Facilities Team. Sports have been a steadfast companion for his thought and expression throughout his life.