Last Sunday was the first time I had seen the Patriots – or any football – all season. And I have been a big Patriots fan for a long time. A friend had the game on. The last 65 seconds in fact. I couldn’t resist the beautiful 50” flat panel TV, and the amazing surround sound. My heart rate went up just a few beats, and I was totally immersed in the drama of the come-from-behind victory. I was so excited. It was a great ending, but…
But, I have given up football for the season. But why? It’s not like I am a betting fiend (I don’t bet), or that I spend hours and hours away from my family at games (I watch on Sundays at home) or that I think the game is a waste of time (well, maybe a little). So why?
It goes back to a sermon I heard a few months ago from David Platt. I’ll paraphrase here. So copyright and all rights to his thinking, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Suppose you have an alien friend. Someone who comes to the US, is not a Christian, and has no idea of the culture.
The first week you take your friend to church. You get there just on time, the band is good, you sing a few of the songs, not with a lot of enthusiasm, but enough words come out to make it seem like you enjoy it. Then there is a teaching segment, you write a few notes. More music. As you leave, you exchange a few pleasantries with a few people on the way out the door. You even mention that you won’t make it to church next week, you know? Tickets to “the game.” The Pats.
Thursday night, you get the portable grill out. Friday is a trip the grocery store for special foods to grill. Saturday you talk all night about Sunday. Sunday you get up early, you put on your team colors. You drive for an hour. You get to the game 2 hours early. You set up your parking “spot” with meticulous care. You cook. You throw a ball to complete strangers. You share food with complete strangers. You talk with complete strangers.
When the game starts, everyone is on time. Everyone sings the opening song with great vigor. When the players come out, loud cheers. You know them all by name. Almost every moment results in a response. A cheer, a sigh. The crowd is euphoric when players get the ball to one end of the field or the other. And it is a nail-biter game. The last 30 minutes everyone is standing. And when it is over (a win), high fives and hugs to everyone you can reach. And you lament how you don’t have tickets next week’s game.
Now ask yourself, at which event would your friend think was worship? At which event was God (gods) seen? How would you explain that the first week was worship of the Almighty, the All-Powerful, the Amazing Creator of the Universe, the One who sacrificed His son so that you could spend eternity with Him? How would you explain that the second Sunday was a fleeting, human endeavor of entertainment and competition that glorified people and money?
Shouldn’t worship be something so much better than a game? Shouldn’t excitement for church boil over more than for a game? Shouldn’t a church invite to a colleague be the highlight of the work week? After all, grace is something all together different and all together better than anything on this planet. Better than a Super Bowl victory. Better than winning a $45 million dollar lottery.
Jesus says it well, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
And so the thought occurred to me, what if I asked God to use time away from football too create in me a greater sense of worship? What if I asked God to use that time to help me grow? To study his Word? To pray? What if I just asked God to use that time however He sees fit to cultivate in me a heart of worship?
So I did. I asked God to help me put my focus on Him. I gave away football time for time with Him. I asked Him to use my football time to cultivate my heart to see more fully that Grace is better than the whole earth.
It’s working. My Sunday afternoons are different. I look forward to them in a new way. I am developing a deepening sense that time spent with Him for His purpose is my purpose.
I am a fan. A big fan of my savior. And I am becoming a bigger fan week by week.