Health and Healing, Lesson 3


I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay Area.

This week’s SS Lesson is on physical fitness.

The Spirit of Prophecy and Sports

When I was younger I was told Ellen White was against competition. Our school was discouraged from having games with other schools because of this belief. We were told that athletic games were bad. However I just did an extensive word search on the Spirit of Prophecy database and found the word “competition” used twelve times. Nine times it was in reference to the business world and three times it was in reference to leaders in the church.  Never was the word used in reference to sports.

Here are the facts on what the Spirit of Prophecy actually says about sports and competition. The purpose of my research is more than just finding out what Ellen White really says about sports, but more importantly to show how balanced Ellen White was. She was not an extreme legalist. She was balanced and sensible. This leads me to the second purpose of my research, and that is to show how we need to read the Spirit of Prophecy for ourselves and interpret it for ourselves. The Spirit of Prophecy is not to be crammed down other peoples throats, nor is it my job or any other religious zealots job to interpret her writings for other people. I am a big fan of the Spirit of Prophecy and believe she has a very important message for the church. The church needs to heed her message! However I am becoming more and more convinced that the Spirit of Prophecy needs to be read individually and applied individually.

The Spirit of prophecy is loaded with all kinds of counsel and different people are prepared for different topics of counsel at different times. If the individual is faithful to read the Spirit of Prophecy the Holy Spirit will lead that individual to the topics that the individual needs to see and will shield him from certain truths until the appropriate time for such truths to be revealed. What I read about eggs and cheese, the Holy Spirit may not want my friend to see yet. So I read it to myself and apply it to myself. I am becoming more and more convinced this is how the Spirit of Prophecy should be used. Some truths are obviously general and should be shared with the general public, but common sense should tell us when we should share or just apply it to ourselves.

One quick thought before I get back on track talking about sports. We should never take Ellen White out of context. Here is the problem. ALL COMPLILATION BOOKS LITERALLY TAKE HER OUT OF CONTEXT! Compilation books are topical books that Ellen White never wrote nor put together. People have taken paragraphs out of their original context and put them together in such compilation books such as Counsels on Diet and Foods, Child Guidance, Adventist Home etc. Now there was no mischief intended when these compilation books were put together, but whenever you take a paragraph out of its original context and put it with other paragraphs which was not its original context then you have just LITERALLY TAKEN THINGS OUT OF CONTEXT. When you read the compilation books you miss the balance and the context that inspired Ellen White.

Okay, now back to the original topic of The Spirit of Prophecy and sports. Now of course I will be giving the references for what I find so you may read them in their original context, which in defense of the compilation books, that is what they do also.

This paragraph is from a biography about Ellen White, written by her granddaughter, Grace White Jacques. The book is entitled “My Special Grandmother,” and here is what she wrote on page 2: “It is my belief that we had the most ideal upbringing. The program was one of study, work, and play. In the spring and summer grandmother let all the neighboring children play baseball in her pasture, for the schoolyard was not big enough. She was against game playing that took time from our studies, worship, and chores. But when our work was done, or just before the afternoon chores, we played. She was in favor of a well-rounded program and did not advocate all work and no play.”

How fortunate that these neighbor kids got to meet the real Ellen White and not the one that has at times been preached to young kids that Ellen White taught that Christianity was all work and no play and no fun. Also her practice of letting kids play baseball on her property goes right along with what she actually taught. In Counsels to the Church, page 161 she writes: “I do not condemn the simple exercise of playing ball; but this, even in its simplicity, may be overdone.” Here is the balance that I believe is inspired. Ellen White was not an extremist, she was balanced.

While the Spirit of Prophecy warns against games taking us away from spiritual matters, the same is also said for work or even church activities or anything else that makes us unbalanced Christians. More times than not, it is not the game itself, but us letting it become a god. Money is not evil in and of itself but the love of it is the root of evil if we let it control us. The same is true for sports or anything else.  Read this paragraph where Ellen White encourages teachers and parents to join their kids in their sports! “They often hold themselves too much reserved, and exercise their authority in a cold, unsympathizing manner which cannot win the hearts of their children and pupils. If they would gather the children close to them, and show that they love them, and would manifest an interest in all their efforts and even in their sports, sometimes even being a child among children, they would make the children very happy and would gain their love and win their confidence. And the children would sooner respect and love the authority of their parents and teachers.” {Counsels to the Church p. 193} Blessed is the parent or teacher who has read this and implicated it in their dealings with their children, and blessed are the children!

In 1900 Avondale College was to set aside a special day to celebrate their anniversary. You can read about it here. This was to be a day of thanksgiving and praise, but instead the school celebrated with games. Ellen White noted that many played these games rudely and grotesquely. She said that the enemy was there. So, many have decided that Satan is involved in all sports. Ellen White never said that.  She said it was the way the games were played and the fact that this was to be a day for thanksgiving and praise to God. So it was not so much the game themselves as much as the spirit and attitude of those who played them.  Ellen White not only talked about evil spirits in our games but also in our church board and committee meetings. Obviously in neither cases are the games or meetings to be done away with but rather the evil spirit is to be done away with. Our games and our religious meetings must all be conducted in the right way and right times in order to obtain God’s approval.  Now obviously if you find it hard to act like a Christian while playing a game of cricket then you must just abstain from cricket. Likewise though, if you find it hard to act like a Christian in church board meetings when sensitive issues are being discussed then you should also abstain from church board meetings.

It is my personal conclusion after studying the Spirit of Prophecy that sports are not evil in and of themselves. I believe we need to be careful not to let our games distract us from spiritual matters. I don’t believe we should be scheduling sporting events for our kids during prayer meeting. I don’t believe we should be scheduling them right after sundown Sabbath, but should carefully guard the edges of the Sabbath. I believe sportsmanship and teamwork should be stressed more than winning. I believe we need to be careful not to let the spirit enter our games that entered the games in question at Avondale. At the same time we need to be careful that same spirit does not enter our church board meetings either.

Any way, I am not saying I am right or wrong. I will let the Holy Spirit tell you if I am right or wrong. I am just sharing my personal conclusions which I believe are based upon inspired writings as well as my opinion.

We should enjoy good things in moderation while abstaining from that which is evil. I believe this is the attitude of the Spirit of Prophecy. The Spirit of Prophecy is not extreme, it is balanced and reasonable. Some people who think they are Ellen White’s biggest fans are actually her worse enemies if they take her writings to extremes which she never intended and beat them over the heads of people that have not yet been convicted by the Holy Spirit on such matters. I believe we need to study the writings of Ellen White for ourselves and apply them to ourselves. We don’t need to read her for other people nor apply them to other people. We also need to read her in context and avoid compilation books which by nature and design are going to be extreme and out of context.

Before I close let me just attach this thought to my blog. Many people want to discredit Ellen white’s letters as not being inspired. Some people say her books are inspired but not any of her letters. Keep in mind though, John, Paul, Peter, James and Jude all wrote letters which ended up in the Scriptures as inspired. So likewise, just because Ellen White wrote it in a letter instead of a book does not necessarily mean what she wrote in the letter is not inspired.

8 thoughts on “Health and Healing, Lesson 3

  1. I fully agree with all that you said. However, I do believe that competitive sports between schools is another thing.There is always such a push to ‘win’ and so many bad feelings. The happy spirit of fun and friendship sort of goes out the window. Ruth

  2. I have a question??? as an SDA most of my life, I always heard “The Spirit of Prophecy.” I thought this was another name for the Holy Spirit and was excited when I heard about it. To my dissapointment, I found out that it wasn’t the Holy Spirit. I now know it’s about Ellen G. White. Can you explain to me why such an important title would be given to her? I always wondered about that. Even she says she is but a candle, and we all know a candle can only lighten a certain small area. I am just wondering…

    1. Thanks for your question Normita. In short, Revelation 19:10 says the Spirit of Prophecy is the testimony of Jesus. That would apply to anyone who testifies for Jesus or has a message from Him as Ellen White did. I have never heard the term applied to the Holy Spirit but while the term would include Ellen White it is not limited to Ellen White. Joel 2:28 talks about sons and daughters having the Spirit of prophecy. While Ellen White was a lesser light pointing to the greater light pointing to the greater light of the Bible, remember Paul was the lesser light in his day pointing to the greater light of the Old Testament. That is why in Acts 17:11 people checked his testimony with the Old Testament. In Daniel’s day he was the lesser light pointing to the greater light of his day which was the writings of Moses. Each prophet in his own day is a lesser light pointing to the greater light that is already established. As far as why is such an important title given to her? It is not given to her but rather the message Jesus shares through her.

  3. William, thank you so much for your thoughts and research. I agree completely!! Having been an athlete, distance runner, for thirty years now, from my first days in junior high, my life has been molded, influenced and enriched so very much by the competition with myself, with others and with the clock, whether it be a marathon, a mile or a training run, the lifestyle of the athlete is a disciplined one with a sub-set of values fitting so well within the Adventist health message, Ellen White or otherwise. Perhaps the most moving competitive moment I witnessed was at a college cross-country race a few years ago, seeing Pacific Union College’s team approach the starting line, partake in a group prayer, have their own Christian cheer and run a race with smiles and “threw off the weight of sin, running with endurance the race set before us looking unto Jesus”, as Paul said we should. You are so right that Ellen White does not forbid competition, nor should we as a church, school or parents. This incredible creation of a body with legs meant to run, and a healthy, balanced competitive heart to be part of road races on Sunday mornings in cities all over the country, well over 200-times so far, has given me spiritual awakenings, clarity of thought and prayer, so perfect for me for another blog-worth of reasons having been told three times in my life I’d never run again, but I continue to and continue to race, compete and praise my creator for the opportunites to.

  4. Hello William,

    Your research and presentation were were very enlightening. It is sad how many have read and twisted not just the writings of Ellen White but also the Holy Scriptures! As you have stated, God, through the work of the Holy Spirit will reveal to us, on an individual basis, exactly what we need for specific legs of our spiritual, physical and emotional journeys. We must watch and fervently pray in order to avoid being swayed by eroneous doctrines, or compromising so much that we loose our focus.

    My conviction is that rigorous physical activity including organized sports is good for our overall health. We should, however, stay away from settings where angels would not trod or accompany us.

    Best Regards,
    Jennifer

  5. Thank you for reminding us of the balance of EGW’s writings. I believe that balance is what we should strive for. My only observation about our Academy’s sports program is that it can become the tail that wags the dog. This is not balance. When the program is in balance then the sports program can teach the young people to be true sportsmen/women in the truest sense of the word. Gracious when winning, gracious when losing.

  6. Hi Will – I appreciate your thoughts. Below are two of the comments I think are referred to when the topic of Ellen G. White and competitive sports are discussed.

    “I wince at the almost sure result which follows competitive sports. These games lead people to spend money that should be given to bring the gospel to dying people who do not know Christ. Money is spent on amusements and expenses to please self, which leads to pride. A passion for activities that are not helpful in perfecting a Christian character is created by teaching people to love these games.” The Adventist Home, p. 499. (adapted)

    “Why do you not enjoy games and sports, as other youth do?” they questioned.
    “It is written,” He answered, “I find joy in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in great riches. I will meditate on Your instructions, and respect Your ways. I will find delight in Your instruction: I will not forget Your word.” Adapted from Manuscript 5, 1896.

    I am left with the impression that there are things to be wary of in competitve sports (not sports for simple exercise)- an unkind, negative competitve spirit, pride, self-centeredness and the wasteful use of money – these would be the opposite of what we as Christ’s followers want to portray.

    I think as long as we concentrate on the positive aspects of competitve sports – we can learn some valuable real life skills. We have an opportunity to learn true, self-less, team building skills (much as Paul talked about regarding the church body). We can learn how to put our selfish goals aside in order to help someone else – how to “take one for the team”. How dedication, perserverance and hard work can pay off – which in turn helps the whole team (later in life a perfected skill or a completed education could benefit untold numbers for God’s work). How to be sincerely happy for the other team (or person)- how to win and lose gracefully – teaching us unselfishness and how to always be considerate of those around us. I could go on, but I think there are real life lessons that can be taught while under the CAREFUL supervision of competitive sports.

    Kathy

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