Back in the prayer room, returning from the once a year insanity of playoff football…
There are about three to four sporting events per year that capture my attention to varying degrees, though the number is dwindling. Playoff football is one of those things that still gets me. The biggest sporting event for years for me was the NCAA Basketball tournament - I would come home from school early in high school to catch some of the afternoon games. I still appreciate the first weekend of the tourney, but don’t pay much attention anymore after that. The one that I probably pay the most attention to when it’s happening is the NBA Finals. As I said elsewhere, I’m still a little bit of a baseball guy, so the World Series holds my attention when I have time. Every once in a while, randomly, I’ll watch a little bit of Wimbledon for old times sake.
So, I’m an unabashed sports guy, because I’m an avid fan of effective leadership (hence my man-crush on Bill Bilicheck), discipline, paying the price to reach a goal, team, strategy, etc. I could go on and on. Sports and the military are the two places where you still see continual sacrifices made for the greater good, where you see (when things work right) egos sublimated as everyone plays their role, and a “concert” of coordinated movement that has both free flowing spontaneity and rigorous structure through set plays that keep everyone of one mind, one accord. It’s why Paul so often to Timothy used sports analogies to make his point.
The two key analogies Paul made were about competing according to the rules (2 Tim. 2:5) and our need to be provoked by the sacrifice top athletes make (1 Cor. 9:25). Paul noted to the Corinthians (culturally not the most motivated, focused, or restrained of peoples) to watch the Greek athletes that competed with focus and hard labor for a perishable crown. These athletes, Paul noted, had to be “temperate in all things” to position themselves to win the prize. The vision of victory naturally leads to a life of self-restraint, or a level of self-government that dictates much of an athletes schedule, diet, and (as they gain a bit of wisdom) social life.
Contrary to the current stereotypes of the modern athlete, most are among some of the most disciplined, focused, and restrained you can find anywhere. In a relatively godless world, this fact is the reason that many of the best are idealized and idolized as worthy targets for the less focused to emulate. The ancient Greeks, who had a deep love for the human body, couldn’t help but elevate their top athletes and their physiques to the top of their social food chain. Of course, like any other group of wealthy, powerful, and influential men and women, without (and, often with) the motivation of a perishable crown the immoral quickly descend into depths of darkness and sin during down times of life that would be best not to examine.
The point, for Paul, was a bit of provocation. These corrupt, immoral athletes are able to restrain themselves to a measure, focus themselves with rigorous self-discipline, and sublimate their egos for the good of the team in a manner that most in the church are unable to emulate. These athletes give themselves to long hours, incredibly hard work, and pressure for the purpose of winning a crown no one will care about a billion years from now. Believers have forgotten that there is a crown reserved for them if they live a temperate, peaceable, restrained life before God - one that will be remembered and celebrated a billion years from now. Many who do not understand the God who rewards are so eager to cast their crowns before Him that they have lost their vision - and thus live unfocused.
The “prize” or the crown set before us is glorious, and worthy of our wholehearted pursuit. We need a revelation again today of what has been set before us to motivate us to play according to the rules, restrain our time, harness our strength, and demand the best of our resources to pursue the only goal that matters. This is my prayer today - that God would capture me again with the vision of a prize worth going beyond the labors of even the most disciplined athlete.
Add comment January 22nd, 2008