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.