Some guy the other day looked at me and said, “Just pray about it.” I felt like he was telling me to shut up—like he was tired of listening to me or something. I was mad. Praying made me angry.
In high school, I remember my dad telling me to apply to colleges. I told him God would lead me to the right one. I felt holy—like I was seeking “God’s direction” (isn’t that what they say in church?). So I picked up my PlayStation controller and built the most legendary dynasty the world had ever seen on Madden 2004. I think that made my dad angry.
I heard a story one time about some dude who was drowning in an ocean but kept telling the rescue boats that God would save him. When he drowned in the ocean and went to heaven, God said, “I sent you three boats, you idiot.” God was probably angry; righteously, of course.
It’s the “God Excuse,” when we Christians, in my opinion, try to sound holy to compensate for our laziness.
The idea for this column came when PGA Tour star Webb Simpson candidly told me in an interview that one of his biggest mental struggles as a Christian athlete is the thought that winning is up to God. It’s a concept he believes many Christian athletes wrestle with.
I would argue that most believers, athletes or not, struggle with this.
Webb told me: “The stereotype of Christian athletes is that if God wants me to win, I’ll win, and I can’t do anything about it. I was falling into that trap (in 2010). But God has not called us to lay over and let Him do all the work. God wants me to be a champion. He’s called me to be a man and a champion and be the best I can be.”
Spending the last half-decade in the Christian bubble, I’ve heard some pretty bad God excuses. To be honest, I’ve probably used most of them, because one, I’m lazy, and two, I like feeling holy.
I remember one of my friends breaking up with his girlfriend and telling her, “I don’t think God wants us to be together.” Truth is, he didn’t even like her, but he didn’t want to feel guilty for not liking her. Plus, how could she argue with God?
One of my theology professors in college told us a story about a teenager’s funeral where dozens of people ended up getting saved. At the end of the funeral, the pastor stood up and confidently said, “This is why she had to die—so these people could be saved.” My professor was sitting in the back thinking, Could he be more wrong? Who are we, as humans, to say why God does things? It’s the God excuse. People were desperately asking why the tragedy happened, so he told them. But it’s wrong.
How offensive is it that we use the God of the universe as a tax write-off? Remember the Crusades? We use God as a cop-out. It makes us feel better, so we do it.
“Why did you lose the tournament?”
“I guess God didn’t want me to win.”
No, you missed three putts within four feet. Plus, you were peaking on each stroke as if $500 in cash was wadded up in the cup. Practice more.
“Not good. My boss is a jerk. I think God wants me to find a different job.”
No, YOU are the one who wants to find a different job. And you are the jerk for bringing God into it.
“I wish. Oh well, God will bring her to me.”
No, you see that cute blonde smiling at you in the corner of the coffee shop? Maybe you should go talk to her. Maybe buy her a caramel frappe? Can’t go wrong with those.
Psalm 37:3-6 talks about trusting in the Lord, doing good, dwelling in the land, befriending faithfulness, delighting in the Lord, committing to God, and then—and only then—God will give you the desires of your heart. Then, your intentions will be aligned with God’s. As James says, “faith apart from works is dead.”
I’m not downplaying prayer or faith. I’m not. I believe in a sovereign God. But I also believe we have to do our part (see, again, Psalms and James). As Webb says, God hasn’t called us to lie down and let Him do all the work. You have to get out of the boat before you walk on water.
Too often, we do nothing because we’re lazy and write it off as faith. But that’s when God just becomes an excuse. That’s when we cheapen the Almighty.
So, work hard and do your part, and also let God work.
Or did God tell you to be lazy?
This column was published in the Sports Spectrum Summer 2012 DigiMag. Stephen Copeland is a staff writer and columnist at Sports Spectrum magazine. His column tackles sports and faith from another angle, whether it’s humorous, personal or controversial. Follow him on Twitter-@steve_copeland or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.