Life Lessons from The NFL Playoffs
You don’t have to watch the news or scroll through social media for longer than a few minutes to realize we live in a messed up world. It’s a world full of haters. Liars. Schemers. Killers. Fakers. Posers. Etc.
Sometimes, I like to escape icky reality by reaching for the remote.
I’ve been watching professional football games since I was a little girl. Football in our house means some obnoxious yelling, crockpot meals, and lazy family time. And in my humble opinion, the playoffs are the best games to watch- maybe because they’re full of drama and high stakes leading up to the biggest prize: the Superbowl AKA a chance at The Lombardi Trophy.
This past Sunday, we watched two nail-biter NFL playoff games- both ending in overtime. Probably like most football-loving Americans, I wasn’t exactly happy Tom Brady won yet another trip to the Superbowl.
It helped that just before the start of the Patriots vs the Chiefs matchup last Sunday, the NFL broadcast an emotionally touching game intro video that humanized Brady’s story and made me briefly cheer for the 41-year-old.
That sentiment lasted for a hot second.
But I’ve been thinking. You know- win or lose-Tom Brady, and those NFL players get knocked around A LOT. And unless they’re freakishly injured, most of them are out there on the playing field giving everything they have to win those games. You can see some of them fighting through ankle or shoulder injuries, whiplash and obvious major “ouch” moments to battle for the ultimate win. When those players are on the sidelines, they’re locked into the action, jumping up and down, most of them anxiously awaiting or preparing for their moment to get back in the game. They’re ignoring the haters, the distractions or the pain and focusing on what’s right in front of them.
Those players are so focused, so determined, so willing to sacrifice everything- just to succeed and give their all to a game to win a coveted prize.
I wonder if we could learn a thing or two from those NFL players.
Before Jesus left this earth, he commissioned his followers, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18b-20)
In other words, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you’ve been drafted.
And you have a job that requires love, focus, determination, and sacrifice. You have a task in front of you- to share the good news with the world. And the coach of all coaches, the one with all authority in heaven and on earth is sending you out. The question is, are you ready?
The Apostle Paul encouraged early church believers in Corinth with this sports example, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.” (1 Corinthians 9:25)
And as awesome and amazing as a Superbowl win might be, a Vince Lombardi Trophy might feel, or how wonderful being called the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) might sound- guess what? Those are all just temporary wreaths.
Attention and trophies, money and fame feels good while it lasts but it doesn’t last forever.
So what kind of wreaths do last forever?
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Everywhere you look, there’s love to be given. The Gospel literally means good news. And it was meant to be shared with the world around us. Yes- the actual messed up world we live in and want to escape from sometimes. We were called to love.
How can we believe God loved us that much and not share that love with others?
How can we believe Jesus died for our sins so we could have eternal life and not burst with gratitude and joy?
How can we grasp the gift of forgiveness and not want to extend that to others?
How can we not but desperately desire to get back in the game?
“But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” (Romans 10:14 &15)
God made each of us with a purpose. I guarantee you the stakes are higher than a perishable wreath.
We were not made to be perma-chillaxin’ on the sidelines.
And I’m not saying we don’t all need a bit of a break sometimes.
Lord knows, I’ve taken my share. British Baking Show marathon, anyone?
But, friends, let’s not perma-chillax for too long. This world, this messed-up, fallen, hurting world, they need what you have.
They need to know it’s for real. They need the grace. They need the forgiveness. They need to know that unconditional love is offered to anyone who desires it.
Brennan Manning once said, “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
I used to think he was talking about people doing evil stuff. But maybe he wasn’t.
Here’s my plea to the Christians: Don’t deny Christ by checking out.
Friends, when life get’s hard- sure, sit on the sidelines for a moment. Get some refreshment. Practice some discipline. Do what you gotta do. Have a good cry to Jesus. Read some truth. Put away the dumb smart phone. Text a friend.
But then get excited.
Because the world isn’t pausing.