Tag Archives: College Football

Victory Over Sin Is Like College Football

College football season is over.  This means two things.  Many people, such as me, have more free time for more constructive endeavors in life.  It also means that many of us have regained some of the higher thinking skills that we had before the season began.  Skills that help us know that an offensive line with no depth and consisting of mostly first year players really has no chance to carry a team to a national title.  Skills that say it is irrational to pin my happiness to the performance of an 18-year-old running back.  Skills that say yielding to the temptation to call a national sports radio program and berate said 18-year-old for not having the maturity of a 30-year-old is not the most rational conduct for grown men and women.  Skills that say believing that there is a national conspiracy to keep my team down is, well, one the most moronic ideas hatched thus far in the 21st century.

College football is all about victory, and the meaning that we pin to the word victory.  We believe that what they do on the field somehow makes us better.  Somehow it means that our school, our state or our region of the country is better than the other school, state or region of the country.  We take the actions and performance of people we probably don’t even know personally and make it all about “me.”

In the spiritual life, we do much the same thing with the idea of “victory over sin.”  Among evangelicals, this is a common theme, although in some less orthodox circles it may now be called victory over bad thoughts and not so nice things.  If we are going to call it anything, let’s call in “victory of sin”, but let’s get the right perspective about it.

Along with my Bible reading each day, I have been reading Holiness Day by Day by Jerry Bridges, who has been one of my favorite Christian authors for many years. Earlier this week, I read in that book about the problem with emphasizing victory over sin and why it is usually not productive.  Victory is all about us.  It is self-centered and success-oriented.  Our concern is not to be personally defeated.  I might add that it can be legalistic, emphasizing victory over just this one sin as opposed to another.  Bridges wrote that rather than victory over sin we should seek a life of obedience to God.  In such an emphasis, the central figures are not me and this sin.  The central figure is God alone.  We understand sin is horrible not because it defeats me personally but because it is an affront to the glory of God.  Victory over sin will come as a by-product of obedience.  It cannot serve as a worthy motive of obedience.

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Mark Richt, Tim Tebow and God

Mark Richt and Tim Tebow have much in common.  Both are admired by evangelical Christians. Both have had great success. And now, the ability of both is under question.  After a complete and total loss by the Georgia Bulldogs to Boise State, even fans who have been long loyal to Mark Richt are questioning if he can turn the team around.  Tim Tebow is struggling to adjust to being a NFL quarterback. Evangelicals enjoyed the success that the two men  have had and the platform it has given them for sharing their faith. However, as their careers have stumbled, how should we as Christians look at it?

Personally, I think both men could turn things around. With a win over South Carolina this weekend, the same sports columnist from the Atlanta Journal Constitution who wrote that it looks like the end for Richt will write how great a turnaround it is and how far the dawgs can go.  Sports columnists are not great at analysis, but they are pretty good at telling us which way the wind blows.  Tim Tebow could still adjust and make it in the NFL. So, I am not saying that they are washed up. But, they have hit what is more than a bump in the road.

For some evangelicals, this is too much with which to deal. Sports writers who have criticized Tebow often get angry letters from people talking about how good Tebow is, both morally and athletically.  He has a strong following that doesn’t want to see him fail or be criticized.

How we look at the success of failure of these two men says a great deal about our priorities and our understanding of how God works in the lives of believers. That leads me to some things that I want to say about how our faith and sports intersect.

The things I have to say may shock the very core of many of you.  Before you read further, I suggests that you sit down.  Are you ready? Sure about that? OK, here it is.  The success of your favorite team or athlete is not very important to God.  Your team is not the cosmic embodiment of good and their rival is not the embodiment of evil.  The New York Yankees are not demonic minions of Satan, and Steve Spurrier is not the antichrist.  God isn’t really paying more attention to the Dallas Cowboys, and I am pretty sure while He watches over all His saints, it doesn’t mean the New Orleans Saints have a privileged position.  The success or failure of your team is not near as important to God as what is revealed in your character when you respond to their success or failure.

Believers are not guaranteed success by God in sports.  If they succeed, He wants Mark Richt and Tim Tebow to glorify Him.  If they fail, He wants them to glorify Him.  The same applies to all Christians in all endeavors.  God is not obligated to make sure that Mark Richt remains the head coach at Georgia.  He is not obligated to see that Tebow gets playing time in the NFL.  They have to do the work to prove their capabilities, just like any of us.  Yet, we can have faith that whatever happens, God is shaping their character.

Through their success and failure, we also see how those outside our evangelical sub-culture view our faith.  While winning, they tolerate our faith, even admire it. In losing, they blast it or at best, misunderstand it.  The common criticism of Christian athletes is that they don’t care if they win or lose or how poorly they performed.  They will just say, “It was God’s will.”  I would like it if someone can actually point me to a Christian athlete that ever said anything like that.

However, what a Christian says or does in the face of defeat is often misconstrued.  If Tim Tebow says, “I’ve prayed about being a quarterback in the NFL, and I believe God is going to help me,” there will be some sportscaster somewhere who will construe it to mean that Tim Tebow thinks God wants him to be the starting quarterback no matter how poorly he plays.  If after a loss, Mark Richt doesn’t say something like, “It was the greatest tragedy since Pearl Harbor,” fans will think that he just doesn’t care.

And that brings me to my last point.  It could be that men who have been overseas, seen utter poverty, walked through orphanages in Eastern Europe, and worked in health clinics where good health care does not exist may have a better understanding of what tragedy is than the person who knows nothing unless he saw it on ESPN.  What appeals to me about Richt and Tebow is that in success or loss, they have modeled what godly men should be and have acted with godly priorities.  That is the lesson we as Christians can learn from sports.  Have fun, but keep things in their perspective.  Learn to succeed and fail in a way that honors and glorifies Him.

A couple of last words: Go Dawgs!

College Football as a Religious Experience

(Author’s note: The following is meant to be humorous.  As I write about the South’s great religions of Christianity and College Football, I realize that I run the risk of being misunderstood.  Please, chill out and enjoy.)

Ok, I must confess.  I am bored out of my mind with sports right now.  It is that lull time when Baseball division races haven’t heated up that much and college football season hasn’t started.  While I like baseball, I would say that like many southerners I have a nearly unhealthy attachment to college football.   In what little remains of the Bible Belt and in significant parts of its former territory, high school and college football are forms of religion.  What’s more, like the Israelites of old, people have a way of mixing their worship of idols with their worship of the one true God.  On Sunday morning, don’t be surprised if you go to church in Athens and see someone in a red and black suit with a Georgia Bulldog tie.  The gold and purple suits in Baton Rouge, however, are a bit shocking to the senses, yet not surprising considering the religious fervor.

So, it is not surprising that I ran across this on Amazon.com.  That’s right:  it’s a devotional book for the die-hard Georgia fan.  But don’t worry, if you are not a Georgia fan.  The same author has written similar devotions for Auburn, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Clemson, NC State, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Duke, North Carolina, Texas A&M, Virginia, Virginia Tech and even, Georgia Tech.  Outside of the South (of which I hold the membership of Texas questionable), there is one written for Penn State.  The same author also has written a devotional book for NASCAR fans.

I must acknowledge that I have never read any of these devotions.  I haven’t even read part of one.  My devotional reading is limited to the Bible and maybe another book that I read after prayer in the mornings such as Practicing the Presence of God, The Mortification of Sin by John Owen, and E.M. Bounds’ Works on Prayer.  It appears that these sports devotional books consist of some pieces of trivia about athletics at the schools.  I am sure some of these lend themselves to thoughts of God and Christ, but I would suspect that some need a major Jesus juke to get to the spiritual end zone.

Being a somewhat occasionally sarcastic individual, I couldn’t help but think that such books for college football fans needed subtitles.  So, here is my list:

Devotions for Alabama Fans: Nick Saban Will Have No gods Before Him
Devotions for Auburn Fans: Confession Is Good for The Soul
Devotions for Tennessee Fans: Prayers that Overcome the Demon of Lane Kiffin
Devotion’s for Georgia Tech Fans: Life’s M-Train
Devotions for Georgia Fans: Overcoming Life’s Disappointments
Devotions for North Carolina Fans: Cheaters Never Win and We’re Proof
Devotions for Ohio State Fans: I Wouldn’t Stand Close to Jim Tressel if I Were You
Devotions for Florida Fans: The Glory Hath Departed—Life after Tebow