12 Inspiring Bible Verses for Athletes

Sports as a Metaphor for Life

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9, NIV)

Learn Religions / Vin Ganapathy

A number of Bible verses tell us how to be good athletes or use athletics as a metaphor for matters of life and faith. Scripture also reveals the character traits we can develop through athletics. We must all remember, of course, that the race that we're running every day is not a literal footrace but one much bigger and more meaningful.

Here are some inspiring sports Bible verses in categories of preparation, winning, losing, sportsmanship, and competition. The Bible versions used here for the passages include the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT).

Preparation

Self-control is an essential part of training for sports. When in training, you have to avoid many of temptations that teens face and eat well, sleep well, and not break the training rules for your team. That relates, in a way, to this verse from Peter:

1 Peter 1:13–16
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'" (NIV)

Winning

Paul shows his knowledge of running races in these first two verses. He knows how hard athletes train and compares this to his ministry. He strives to win the ultimate prize of salvation, as athletes strive to win.

1 Corinthians 9:24–27
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." (NIV)

2 Timothy 2:5
"Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules." (NIV)

1 John 5:4b
"This is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith."

Losing

This verse from Mark can be taken as a cautionary warning not to get so caught up in sports that you lose track of your faith and values. If your focus is on worldly glory and you ignore your faith, there could be dire consequences. Keep the perspective that a game is just a game, and what's important in life is bigger than that.

Mark 8:34–38
"Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: 'If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.'" (NIV)

Perseverance

Training to improve your abilities requires perseverance, as you must train to the point of exhaustion in order for your body to build new muscle and improve its energy systems. This can be a challenge for the athlete. You must also drill to become good at specific skills. These verses can inspire you when you are tired or begin to wonder whether all the work with be worthwhile.

Philippians 4:13
"For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." (NLT)

Philippians 3:12–14
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

Hebrews 12:1
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." (NIV)

Galatians 6:9
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (NIV)

Sportsmanship

It is easy to become caught up in the celebrity aspect of sports. You must keep it in perspective of the rest of your character, as these verses say.

Philippians 2:3
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." (NIV)

Proverbs 25:27
"It is not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to seek one's own honor." (NIV)

Competition

Fighting the good fight is a quote you may often hear in a sports context. Put it into the context of the Bible verse from which it comes doesn't exactly keep it in this category, but it's good to know its origins. And even if you don't win a particular day's competition, this will help you keep it all in perspective of what really is important in life.

1 Timothy 6:11–12
"But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses." (NIV)

Edited by Mary Fairchild