Athlete, Understand How to Sabbath


Athlete, Understand How to Sabbath

Joel Pfahler

Deuteronomy 5:12 (ESV)

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.

How to keep a hard-work ethic, yet still appreciate the gift of the Sabbath

Christians are often divided, or confused at best, on the Fourth Commandment, “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” 

Athlete, discover what this means and how to make it work in a culture in which Sunday activities are common. 

Any athlete can appreciate the spiritual values of hard work (“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart,” Colossians 3:23 NIV) and rest — letting the physical body recover from its work. It’s commonly discussed how to find a healthy rhythm for work and rest. Discovering that sweet spot is for you to decide. 

When I was growing up, my family went to church in the morning, and came home to rest in the afternoon. My parents didn’t really have rules for what I could or couldn’t do on Sunday afternoon. 

If the weather was nice, I often went outside for recreational play. I rarely had an organized sporting event on a Sunday (times have changed). 

I liked having Sundays as a day for church and rest, and still do. But as a post-collegiate track and field athlete competing on the national level, I was advised to train on Sunday mornings. I understood the logic — presumably there’s more time for longer workouts on the weekends — but it didn’t feel right for me to train on Sunday mornings and cut short my time at church.

For a period of time, I trained on Sunday mornings and went to church in the evening. I assumed this was theologically okay, since I was not skipping church. But because of the rhythm that I had grown up with, it still didn’t feel “right” to be out training on Sunday mornings instead of church.

Now, I occasionally compete on Sunday mornings, since most of my major competitions take place on Sunday. While I want to be at church, I also believe that competition is an act of worship. 

Eric Liddel famously declined to run the 100 meters at the Olympics because he believed that the Sabbath was not a day for recreation. I love the movie Chariots of Fire, based on Liddel’s story, and find it inspiring. But I’ve often wondered if he was right. 

His legacy has inspired a lot of people, but he lived 100 years ago and his beliefs about the Sabbath were likely a product of his cultural context. Sunday sporting events were not common in the early 20th century. 

Today’s world is much different and sports are commonly played on Sundays. How should the ethical and moral question of honoring the Sabbath be addressed in today’s context? To find answers, 

  1. Discover what Scripture teaches about the Sabbath
  2. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide correct interpretation
  3. Trust your moral conscience for discernment, considering your personal context

Tomorrow, we’ll explore what Scripture teaches about the Sabbath.


TEXT "PLAYBOOK" TO 775-204-0404

we saved you a seat