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.
(Romans 12:2)

Sports can foster good will and camaraderie, teach valuable life lessons, and help you live a healthy life. But the challenges that come with playing sports can also push you to your limits — physically, mentally, and even spiritually. 

Many athletes find that incorporating their faith into their athletic pursuits can have a profound impact on their performance and mindset. In faith, athletes can find an inner strength and peace that transcends their physical abilities to support comfort, motivation, and a sense of purpose.

For any athlete, it’s important to cultivate sources of encouragement and inspiration. And as a source of divine wisdom and guidance, the Bible contains many verses that can provide this valuable inspiration for athletes. 

Christian athletes are called to strive for success while keeping faith at the center. Let’s explore eight Bible verses that athletes can turn to for encouragement and strength.

Scripture for Celebrating Victories in Sports

Exodus 15:2

The Lord is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation.

God is the source of strength and victory, and this verse praises him as such. It teaches athletes to acknowledge God’s role in their successes and give him thanks.

When athletes achieve victories in sports, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget to acknowledge the one who made it all possible. This verse from Exodus reminds us that our strength and defense come from the Lord, and that he won the greatest victory of all. 

Scripture for Building Endurance in Sports

Hebrews 12:1

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 

This verse from Hebrews can encourage athletes to endure and persevere through the ups and downs of their athletic journey. Each race is unique and requires steadfastness to reach the finish line.

And endurance is not just about physical strength; it is also mental and emotional strength. Athletes must learn to push through fatigue, doubt, and setbacks, trusting that the race marked out for them has a divinely-planned purpose, and a final destination. Your race is not a sprint, but a marathon — requiring perseverance, patience, and determination to cross the finish line.

Scripture for Overcoming Challenges and Building Mental Strength

Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 

This verse reminds athletes that by relying wholly on God’s strength, and not their own, they can overcome any obstacle. When an athlete faces a challenging situation, this verse serves as a powerful reminder that they are not alone.

This verse also encourages athletes to push their limits, reminding them that they have the infinite strength of God to fall back on.

Scripture for Teamwork and Unity in Sports

Ecclesiastes 4:9–10

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion.

This verse emphasizes the value of teamwork, reminding athletes that when they collaborate with others, their efforts yield greater results. This verse also speaks to the importance of supporting and uplifting one another, reminding athletes that they are not alone in their journey. It encourages them to work together, rely on their teammates, and build strong relationships on and off the field.

Teamwork fosters a sense of belonging and camaraderie among athletes, and often fosters friendships. When individuals come together to pursue a common goal, they form a bond that goes beyond that day’s game. 

Scripture for Encouraging Unity and Cooperation in Sports

Ephesians 4:3

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 

This verse stresses the importance of unity and brings attention to the sense of fulfillment and peace that comes from working together. It encourages athletes to prioritize harmony and cooperation in their teams.

Unity also involves embracing a team’s diversity and respecting those differences. In a team, athletes may come from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. However, united under a common purpose, these differences become strengths that contribute to the team’s success.

Cooperation is another crucial aspect of this kind of unity — it happens when individuals set aside their personal agendas and work toward a shared objective. When athletes cooperate, they create an environment where everyone’s skills and talents are utilized effectively. This allows the team to overcome challenges and achieve victories that would be impossible to do as individuals.

Scripture for Goal Setting in Sports

Proverbs 16:3

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

This verse reminds athletes to to set goals aligned with God’s will, to commit their goals to God and trust that he will guide their paths. 

Setting goals in sports, it is important to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve. Whether it’s improving your personal best, winning a championship, or making it to the professional level, having a goal gives you something to strive for. 

However, setting goals is not just about what you want, but also about aligning your desires with God’s. By committing your goals to the Lord, you invite him to “establish your plans” and direct your steps. This verse also serves as a reminder that success in sports is not solely dependent on your own efforts, but on God’s plan and guidance.

Scripture for Athletes to Find Peace

Psalm 46:10

Be still, and know that I am God.

This verse serves as a reminder to athletes, who often find themselves caught up in the chaos of a game or a race, to cherish moments of stillness and silence, making time to connect with the God of peace. It encourages athletes to prioritize their spiritual well-being alongside their physical training.

Scripture for Defeat in Sports

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. 

God is present in the victories, yes, but he is also present for the losses. This verse reminds Christians that it is their faith that brings the “renewal of your mind.” To discern the will of God, which is good, acceptable, and perfect, involves also seeking what is good, acceptable, and perfect always, including in the midst of suffering. For the championships lost, the close games, the bad calls, the injuries, the loss of mentors, and more, God is there, too. 

“It is suffering, after all, that winds up redeeming us at times. It is by suffering that we find the real, enduring form of success, happiness, and triumph,” David Cook wrote here at Common Good. It is not only the wins that athletes can thank God for. Between the suffering and enduring strength is faith in the will of God.