“I wrote this book because I’ve grown tired of the clichéd thinking that dominates the religious sports culture.”
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! My only problem with it is that it wasn’t available for me while I was still competing (but there’s a chapter for that too! (Chapter 11: “On Retirement”)).
The Assist: A Gospel-Centered Guide to Glorifying God Through Sports by Brian Smith, is a thoughtful, practical, and biblical companion for the Christian athlete. Written out of years of personal experience, a deep love for sports, and biblical fidelity, this book helps athletes view their sport in the proper context.
While reviewing his reasons for writing The Assist, Smith says, “I wrote this book because we need good, biblical, and practical answers to questions such as these: does God care about sports? Is it okay for me to want to win? Why would God allow me to get injured? What does it mean to have a platform, and what does God expect me to do with it? What does it even mean to give God glory, and how can I give it to him through a game? Is it okay to pray for success?” He answers each of these with biblical wisdom and clarity.
Smith’s writing style is winsome and real. An intimate knowledge of his audience allows him to know precisely where to chisel and exactly where to jackhammer. He picks his punches but he certainly doesn’t pull ‘em. He’s gleaned his insight into the mind of the athlete through his own time competing in track and field at Wake Forest and through his years of work on staff with the sports ministry, Athletes In Action, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His personal stories from his time as an athlete are both heartfelt and humorous.
Those familiar with the ministry of Athletes In Action will be pleasantly surprised to learn new ways to talk about and expound on our 5 principles. But Smith goes beyond the basic tenants of the Athletes In Action ministry as he pulls from classics like Game Day For The Glory of God and Don’t Waste Your Sports, as well as pastoral wisdom from guys like Matt Chandler, John Piper, and Tim Keller.
While Smith has abstracted lessons from his own personal ministry and life as an athlete, and while he contextualizes age old wisdom through the lens of sport, he’s true to his stated goal, “This is a book written from a biblical perspective aimed at helping athletes glorify God in every facet of their sports.” He stays close to the text as he draws out biblical principles. But Smith doesn’t just lay a foundation for Gospel-centered competition, he also critiques those attitudes in the sports world that are antithetical to what a Christian athlete should be.
Chapter 1, “On Glory”, is one of my favorites. We hear “glory to God” or “I want to thank my Lord and savior Jesus Christ”, all the time at the beginning of interviews, but what does it mean to give glory to God? Does God need us to give Him glory, as though we have something He lacks? Of course not- we know that. But we might not know how to positively describe what it means to glorify God through sport. Smith’s choice to tackle this topic right away is key. It sets the tone for the whole book, just as glorifying God or not glorifying God sets the tone for an athletes whole career.
In summing up his chapter on glory, Smith writes, “.. giving God glory means thinking and acting in a way that pleases God and draws attention to who he is. As an athlete, you bring glory to God when you think and act in a way that pleases God and draws attention to who he is.” (Pg. 17). How does an athlete think and act in a way that draws attention to who God is? That’s what the other 13 chapters cover!
This book is written to the athlete, but it’ll be beneficial for coaches, parents, ministry leaders, pastors, and even those who enjoy the weekend pickup game. I’m grateful to Brian Smith for clearly, cogently, and persuasively writing a biblically faithful companion to sports. I’m also grateful that it’s not too expensive, as I will have to buy hundreds of them throughout my years in ministry.
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