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The Good Sporting Life: Loving and playing sport as a follower of Jesus
Matthias Media, Australia, April, 2020
ISBN-13 - 978-1925424645
"As Christians, like [Eric] Liddell, we are Christians who play sport, not sportspeople who happen to be Christians," write Liggins. "With God’s help, we seek to put Christ first in our lives. Following Jesus is our priority, and it should be a wholehearted commitment."
Sydney-based pastor and author Stephen Liggins loves sport. Not just playing it (he was almost a professional cricketer) but, in his words, "watching it, reading about it, and talking about it". But he also loves "God, my family, and other people a whole lot more". This book is about how all that comes together in the life of a Christian; what it means to be a player, watcher, and, more generally, a lover of sport while also a follower of Jesus Christ.
Liggins starts with canvassing some of the reasons why Christians should and shouldn't be involved in sport (pro - using one's gifts for God; con - the danger of exposure to bad influences) and then jumps into a look at what the Bible has to say about sport, not just the use Paul makes of sport as a metaphor - "Run in such a way as to get a prize", but how Biblical principles can be applied to sport; that is, how we can be involved in and with sport in a way that reflects our faith.
Eric Liddell, the Scottish Christian Olympic runner whose story is partly told in the film Chariots of Fire, is among those whose experience is explored in the book in a bid to to illustrate what it looks like to be a Christian sportsperson.
"As Christians, like Liddell, we are Christians who play sport, not sportspeople who happen to be Christians," write Liggins. "With God’s help, we seek to put Christ first in our lives. Following Jesus is our priority, and it should be a wholehearted commitment."
But Liggins recognises that it's not always an easy thing to do and talks about the importance - and this is obviously applicable to any Christian, not just those involved in sport - of staying connected with the "Coach" through such things as reading the Bible, praying and attending church.
Elsewhere the book - which is on the shortlist for this year's Ausralian Christian Book of the Year - explores the joy people can get from participating in or watching sport (along with, at times, frustration and disappointment), and how it can be used to glorify God. There's also helpful advice on how to avoid turning sport into an idol in your life and a terrific chapter on what it means to have "sportsmanship in an unsporting world" as well as some some encouraging tips on how to turn the sporting field into the mission field (being able to effectively communicate the Gospel is one).
There's some advice for Christians who are looking to take their sports participation to a higher level and some advice specifically tailored "words" for those who may influence sporting lives - parents, coaches, teachers, referees, chaplains, ministers and spectators. Liggins closes with an eclectic chapter on some of the other sports-related issues of interest to Christians covering everything from whether you should you play sport on Sundays, it is a good idea to pray for victory in sporting contests, and how to get involved in sports ministries.
A great resource for anyone who is a Christian and like, Liggins, a lover of sport - whether as an amateur, a professional or someone who simply watches it - and is interested in exploring the space where the two come together.
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