10 Bible Verses for Christian Athletes to Memorize

10 Bible Verses for Christian Athletes to Memorize

Let’s start with the why before we get to the what and the how of memorizing scripture. While there are plenty of reasons for memorizing selected passages of the Bible, three stand out to me as especially relevant for athletes.

Jesus did it.

The Gospel of John begins by referring to Jesus as “the Word.” Jesus, the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), is also the Word incarnate. He took on the very flesh that we have and lived among us. And while he did that, he quoted 24 books of the Old Testament over 180 times (and that is only what we have recorded in the New Testament). If Jesus is our ultimate example and who we desire to model our life after, we would be wise to follow his lead and commit scripture to memory.

The Bible tells us to do it.

While I was getting some physical therapy the other day, I had the opportunity to tell the trainer what I do for a living as a sports missionary. He was quick to respond: “I love working with athletes. They are driven and intrinsically motivated. All you need to do is tell them what to do—and you can trust that they will do it.”

Athletes like clear direction from coaches. For the Christian athlete, the directive to memorize God’s Word is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:18, Psalm 119:11, Proverbs 7:2-3, and Colossians 3:16.

The Holy Spirit can coach us in real-time.

The purpose of storing God’s Word in our hearts is so God can remind us of his truth when we need it. When you are playing your sport and the coach relays the play to you, assuming you know the play, you then begin executing it. The same is true in our spiritual lives. God wants to remind us, encourage us, convict us, lead us, and teach us throughout the day. But we need to have enough plays (scripture) memorized for him to use. Part of the Holy Spirit’s job in our lives is to remind us of these specific truths that we have stored away when we most need them.

What are some verses worth committing to memory for Christian athletes?

I have ten passages that I think will prove helpful as Christian athletes seek to live faithfully at the intersection of faith and sport. These verses can help build an accurate theology around how to think about God and sport—and become great “plays” the Holy Spirit can use to inform our steps, help others, and call audibles when needed.

Matthew 6:9-13

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

These verses are commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer.” It’s how Jesus has instructed us to pray. Why should Christian athletes commit these verses to memory? For starters, the prayer starts with calling God “Father.” We need to remember that God identifies relationally with us as sons and daughters, not as athletes who need to perform for his love, affection, and attention. As we remember God’s identity as Father, we hopefully remember our identity as son or daughter. These verses also lay the foundation for how we should pray to our Father:

Galatians 5:22,23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

What is God’s desire for our lives? Is it to win championships, set records, and use that platform to share God’s love with the world? Maybe. But, God’s will for all of us can be seen in these verses in Paul’s letter to the Galatian church. As Christian athletes, we can be confident that the Holy Spirit wants to grow this fruit in our lives. And He (yes, the Spirit is personified in the Bible), has very specific character traits in mind that He wants to grow in each of us. Christian athletes would do well to memorize what this fruit consists of so they can understand that God will most likely use wins, losses, injuries, teammates, coaches, and anything else in sport to help produce the fruit he wants in his followers. Our goals may be championships. God’s goal is character.

Philippians 4:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

One thing I am constantly preaching to my kids as they navigate the early obstacles in sports is this: nerves are normal. It’s okay to be nervous before a game.

I’m not sure if there is a clinical difference separating anxiety and nerves, but within the context of sports, I think the distinction is this: nervousness in sports is a fear of the unknown, and anxiety in sports is a fear of failure.

Listen, nerves are good. Being nervous before a competition is natural—and even helpful. They alert our mind and body that something is coming up that requires more energy and exertion than we are used to experiencing.

God actually designed our bodies to produce specific hormones (like adrenaline) when we prepare for an opportunity. You don’t need to apologize for nerves. You should embrace them!

But, as an athlete, hopefully you can tell the difference between nerves and legit anxiety. When anxiety (fear of the unknown) creeps in or overwhelms us, God gives us clear instructions in the Bible on what to do with it: give it to him. When we do, he promises to replace that anxiety with peace.

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

The culture of sport can be toxic: Music in the locker room, weight room, and on the practice field, language from coaches and teammates, propensity for pride and idolatry, cheating, and gambling. The list goes on. As Christians, we are called to be in the world but not of the world. That means many times we can’t avoid being around environments that are not conducive to Christlike growth. We can, however, be intentional with what is transforming us. Romans 12:2 reminds us to choose the vehicle of our transformation wisely—and it tells us how to do it. For Christian athletes, we need to constantly be aware of what sports culture is pulling us towards.

Matthew 22:37-39

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

These verses are the north star for the Christian athlete. Above all else, God calls us to love him and love others (like we love ourselves). Everything else a Christian athlete aspires to do for God’s glory in and through sport stems from these two trajectories.

Matthew 28:18-20

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

You huddle up one last time with your team before the start of the game. All eyes are fixated on the coach. It’s the last thing they will say before you break the huddle and compete. You know two things: this is going to be important to remember and it’s probably not going to be something entirely new. This was the case with Jesus and his disciples. These verses are Jesus’ “one last thing before we break this huddle together” moment. They represent the mission of every Christian: to make disciples. For Christian athletes, there should be a missional aspect to their approach to sport. Our teammates, coaches, trainers, rivals, and fans are not projects. They are people who need to hear about the good news that Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead, for all of our sins, so each of us could be reconciled to God.

These verses also show Jesus claiming to be with us. This is a staggering truth with implications for us in sport. It means that we can still play “for God.” But we can also play “with God.” We don’t have to envision Jesus high above the bleachers looking down on us. We can trust his presence is with us, through the Holy Spirit.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

One of the hard truths about sports is that things don’t always work out the way we expect. Losses happen. Injuries suck. Benchings surprise. Bad calls annoy. What does a Christian do with hardship and disappointment in life? They look to God and commit to remaining faithful in hard moments. They trust that God will make a way (according to what he knows is best) even when the outcome looks bleak. As Christian athletes, we cling to the truth that God knows best.

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

It’s important to understand that context matters when we read the Bible. Read outside of context, Philippians 4:13 means that we can do anything (athletic feats included) because we have Christ. The verses preceding this one, however, show the Apostle Paul talking about finding contentment in both the highs and lows of life. He shares that he has learned the secret of being content, regardless of the situation. What’s the secret? Enter Philippians 4:13. This is a foundational verse to memorize because it means that we can find contentment in this world, regardless of the score or circumstances, because of Christ. Wins won’t bring contentment. We often wrongly claim this verse, thinking it will help us achieve victory. But what it promises offers so much more than a win could ever offer. This verse, claimed correctly, is about finding contentment anywhere, anytime, because of Christ. 

Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

If you have been involved in sport at any level, you know there are times when things happen to teammates and you just need the right thing to say to offer comfort. Most of the time, simply saying “I’m really sorry” is enough. But what do you say when you have an opportunity to speak another level of solace to someone in a time of despair? This is a great verse to share with someone, but it does take discernment when to share it, and how to share it. Assuming you have the opportunity, I would say something like this to a teammate in distress as my lead-in: “Can I share a verse from the Bible with you that I have memorized because I know it helps me in difficult times?” If they say yes, share it.

1 Corinthians 10:31

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

What does it mean to glorify God? I think it at least means this: thinking and acting in a way that pleases God and draws attention to him. We can do that by eating or drinking. We can do that by vacuuming the living room or doing the dishes. And we can do that as we navigate and participate in all aspects of sport. 1 Corinthians 10:31 shows us how to approach everything in life, sport included.

How do we memorize scripture?

There are plenty of different ways to do this. Here is the process that’s been most beneficial to me.

  1. Write out the verse(s) by hand on paper or notecard.

  2. Say it out loud 5-10 times as you look at the verse.

  3. Put the notecard/paper away and say it out loud without looking at it.

  4. Throughout the day, repeat it to yourself (you don’t have to say it out loud). If you forget it, pull out whatever you wrote to help you out.

  5. Before you memorize another set of verses the next day or week, always start by reciting the ones you already have memorized to keep them fresh.