Sports Spectrum Daily Devotional: Friday, June 26

“[A]nd the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from Heaven: ‘You are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.'” — Luke 3:22

Audience of One

One of the greatest things about sports is the fans. Ask any athlete in any sport, and they’ll tell you that one of their favorite things about playing is the passionate support they receive from the fans. Sports are what they are largely because of the cheers, screams, groans, gasps and applause that come with rooting for the players and teams you love.

But this year, thanks to the coronavirus, as sports resume, they’ll have to do so without fans — at least for a while. There will be no roars for a hole-in-one, no hysteria for a walk-off home run, no yells for a buzzer-beater in basketball, no sustained euphoria for a “Gooooaallll” in soccer. And we can all agree that while we’ll be glad to have the distraction of sports back, it will feel odd not to have the noise of a live crowd in attendance. Fans will madly cheer from home, but it just won’t be the same. Won’t feel truly normal until everyone can gather in the stands together once again.

The players will have to adjust, too. They’re used to feeding off the crowd’s frenzy in a comeback. They’re used to responding to the instant reaction of the fans to everything they do. Now, it’s just going to be them and the game against a worthy opponent. It’ll be sport in its most basic and purest form.

Imagining what this will be like got me thinking about how easy it is to compete for the crowd. Even though a player does it for the love of the game, they also know how much their performance — good or bad — influences the fans. Inspires or disappoints the fans. Engages the fans. Angers the fans. The fans play a huge role in a competitor’s play and career. So now that the crowd element has been removed, how will the players adjust? Who will they be and how will they play when nobody is there to affect them from the stands? What will they do when they can no longer play to the crowd?

Athletes in Action, a well-respected Christian sports discipleship organization, has long popularized the mantra “Audience of One,” teaching athletes of faith to remember that, in reality, there is only One whose applause really matters. When all the noise is stripped away and you’ve been booed or cheered by others, the approval of your Heavenly Father is truly the only thing that counts. And what God the Father said of His Son, Jesus Christ, can also be said of us as His children: “You are my beloved; I am well pleased with you” (Luke 3:22).

In the end, we are not what we do or achieve. We are not what others say about us, nor are we even what we possess in this life. As followers of Christ, we are what HE says of us: loved, chosen, forgiven, prized, favored. And, in the absence of man’s applause, HIS blessing continues, regardless of the outcome.

— Katherine Singer

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