Your daily Olympic devotional
A snippet from a new sports devotional, The Spirit of Victory. Available through your favourite bookstore.
Playing with Joy - “Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10
After winning the women’s 20/20 World Cricket Cup the headline in the newspaper stood out so boldly “JOY IS THE AUSTRALIAN’S SECRET WEAPON.” The player of the match, Alyssa Kealy, said that the joy of essentially playing for fun was something she valued.
She added, “you cannot wipe the smile off my face.” Later she commented, “That freedom and pure enjoyment in what you’re doing is lost a bit in men’s professional sport.” Alyssa really strikes at the essence of sport as a bringer of joy.
To bring joy, the players themselves must play with joy, zest and enthusiasm. In the 1970’s Jacques Ellul, a French sociologist expressed a fear that sport was becoming too mechanical and an expression of work, not play.
In life, we can bring joy to others, but only, if we possess it ourselves. In Nehemiah’s time about 430BC the city of Jerusalem’s walls needed rebuilding and the hearts of the people needed to be uplifted.
The city had been destroyed by enemies and people had been subdued by captivity in Babylon. Through hard work and co-operation the city’s walls were rebuilt and, through the reading of God’s word by Ezra, the hearts of the people were deeply moved and uplifted. Nehemiah wanted the people to see that their God was a God of joy.
Jesus said to His disciples in the Upper Room the night before His crucifixion “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you and that your joy might be full” John 15:11. Peter, one of those disciples there on that night, wrote later, “whom having not seen you love.
Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy unexpressible and full of glory.” After love, joy is listed second in the list of the fruit of the Spirit. Paul encourages the Philippians to “Rejoice in the Lord always” Philippians 4:4.
Are we bringers of joy? Whether in the sporting arena, or at work or in the home or among our friends and colleagues.
Peter Nelson the Australian Institute of Sport chaplain for 29 years (Ret), 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympics Chaplain. Peter’s story