I believe that God is all about sports. I believe that the effort we put in to playing a game, friendly competition and organized teamwork is a direct reflection of God’s personality, image and desire for connection with each and every one of us.
When it comes to football, I like to compare the gridiron (the field) to life and football teams to the people in our lives. We have a head coach - God (and Jesus), and we have other coaches like pastors, mentors, and parents. We have a playbook - the Bible, and we have a uniform - the Full Armor of God. The coin toss determines boy or girl, and the game clock starts the minute we are born.
The kickoff signifies the time we start walking, talking and turning into a real person. We are on a special team as we grow, develop and learn to obey. Our coaches are primarily our parents who are led by the head coach - God.
Elementary school marks a time similar to the pop warner years. We continue to grow, our bodies change and our knowledge of the game increases. We develop relationships with our teammates and learn how those relationships affect our life. It is a crucial time of development as we learn how to respect authority, work with others, and live obediently to the rules. At the same time we are experiencing consequences that will, hopefully, allow us to mature into responsible adults.
As we get older and begin to navigate our high school years, we go through a time of testing the waters, pushing boundaries and discovering who we are. We are constantly changing teams and coaches as we get released, traded and we look for new teams to be a part of. The same can be said for college. Our team might be a sorority, or a sports team or a group of people we become involved with.
By now we’ve learned some basic plays in the game of life but we still have a tendency to venture off on our own, doing our own thing, not totally committing to our coach and our assignments. We hope the coach won’t notice our half ass efforts in the fact that we don’t know the plays and we’ve been arriving late to practice tired and unfocused.
After the experimental years of early adulthood, we find ourselves coming to grips with some of our mistakes and we re-dedicate our selves to our coach (God) and our place in life, or the position he has us playing. Perhaps it’s a career or a marriage or both. Either way, we begin to focus our attention on this new field because it’s the one we are probably going to be playing on for many years. Kind of like our home field. And we want to do the best job in our home games as possible. At work, as a spouse, as a parent.
Our coach is the most dedicated coach in the world. He sees our suffering from the consequences of our bad decisions like when we choose not to practice, condition and eat right. He reminds us to study our plays (read our bibles), weight train (make a joyful noise) and get plenty of rest (pray).
Sometimes our coach calls us to a different position and we enter a season where we need to learn new strategies in order to effectively battle our opponent. We work on new blitzing techniques as our opponent works his way toward our end zone. We master our 3-4 defense, our 4-3 defense and our zone and man to man coverages. There will be times when our opponent will gain a yard or two but then coach calls a play and we sack him for a loss.
Our enemy will try every play in the book to beat us but if we have learned the plays, followed our coaches direction and trusted the fact that coach knows what he’s doing, we can’t be beat. We may look and feel beat up after the game but the victory is ours.
As we look for signs that tell us what to do and signs that tell us what not to do, we learn to trust our coach more. We develop a dependence on him as we hear his call from the sidelines promptly make the play and accrue downs.
Sometimes though, we get caught up in all the victories and we begin to take credit for our successes and forget that if it were not for the coach we wouldn’t be where we are. We start to believe that it is all about how great we are and our ability, our size and our instincts, get the credit. We forget that the coach knows more than us, is calling the plays because he knows our opponent and he knows what will work and what won’t. After all, he used to coach him!
As soon as we take our eyes off the coach we begin to make mistakes and the penalties stack up. We begin to lose yards and our opponent gets awfully close to scoring. So we call a time out. We tell our coach how sorry we are for not listening and we ask for help. And just like David and Goliath, Daniel in the lion’s den, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, coach calls for a hail Mary at the last minute and the victory is ours!
Let’s be real. We don’t always win. Or, at least, we don’t feel like we’ve won a lot of the time. Unlike a real football game, life doesn’t really keep score (although we try to). There will be wins and there will be losses. We live in a fallen world, with a not so perfect field, not so perfect teammates, and not so perfect referees. Even though God (our coach) is calling the plays, sometimes the brokenness around us effects the outcome. It can be devastating. Even if we’ve done absolutely everything our coach said, we still lose. It can come in the form of a failed marriage, the loss of a loved one, or perhaps a financial collapse. Regardless of what game it is, we mourn the loss and cry out to our coach.
But in the devastation of the moment our coach reminds us that sometimes loss is necessary in order to prepare us for a new season. (HA! Words we don’t like to hear). A loss can present an opportunity to make new plays, develop new strategies, and deepen our passion for this game of life. It is also a reminder that this game is not meant to be played alone. Our losses are not meant to be mourned alone. We are made to connect with our teammates and our coach.
Our coach also reminds us that this game we’re playing here on earth is only temporary and is preparing us for the biggest game of all……the Super Bowl (eternal life)………where the field is totally perfect (Heaven), the referees are perfectly fair (angels) and our team includes the most awesome players that ever existed in the game of football (our brothers and sisters in Christ).
By the time we reach the Super Bowl, we have a new understanding of what all the hard work, games and practices have prepared us for. As we get into position and set our minds on the next play we rejoice because no matter what happens there won’t be a winner in this game. There won’t be any penalties and there won’t be any losers. Because you see, the “favor of the Lord our God is upon us, and He has established the work of our hands; yes, established the work of our hands!” -Psalm 90:17