Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Most of us have heard of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You just might be a redneck if …”, where he gives a list of indications of being a redneck. Well, in that vain, I want to give a list of “Sports just might be an idol if …”
I am observing more and more Christians devoting a ton of time and energy into sports. This is especially true in the south (where I live and enjoy my DAWGS) with SEC football. SEC football is so big not that an entire TV station is devoted to it. It is big time down here. But I lived in Wisconsin for 18 years, so you Packer fans (which I am one!) are not off the hook either! The bottom line is that sports is big wherever you go these days.
Now, let me be clear. I enjoy sports and it can be great fun and fellowship to attend or watch games with friends. It can even be a great form of outreach. However, it is so important we all keep this in proper perspective. The Apostle Paul said, “All things are lawful but not all things are profitable … all things are lawful, but I will be mastered by nothing.” (1 Cor. 6:12). Balance is the key, and I am very concerned that many are out of balance today.
We often think of idolatry as people worshiping a golden calf or some statue of Buddha. And those things certainly are idolatry, but the Bible describes idolatry as putting anything or anyone before God in our life. Therefore, sports just might be an idol if:
1. You have greater affections for your team than you do for the God who loves you and sent His Son for you. You can shout on Saturday but not sing on Sunday? Something is wrong with that scenario.
2. You spend more time with your sports’ team than you do with the God who longs for you to know Him. Calculate the amount of time watching the game, reading the articles, searching online for anything about your team, and then compare it to the time you spend with God in the Word and prayer. Ouch.
3. You spend more money on your team than you give to your church or world missions. Which is more important to God? Which is a better investment in eternity?
4. You are emotionally derailed when your team looses, instead of the joy of the Lord being your strength. This past Saturday, Georgia lost a heart breaker to UT in the final second of the game. Many fans have been in severe depression ever since. It is really sad when you can sense the mood of the congregation on Sunday, depending on the outcome of the Saturday game.
5. Your relationships with others are adversely affected based on the outcome of games. While pastoring in Wisconsin I served as a police chaplain. I learned that the local police department would receive the fewest calls during a Green Bay Packer game. And they received the most domestic violence calls after a Packer lose. How sad. I know of churches in Alabama where the Auburn fans sit on the opposite side of the sanctuary from the Bama fans. This is taking it way too seriously.
6. You get greater joy when your team succeeds than from the God who eternally saved you. I have seen people’s entire emotional stability come from the outcome of their game. They are on top of the world after a victory, and in the pits after a loss. I heard a UGA fan call into a radio talk show after a tragic loss, and literally sound on the verge of suicide. The talk show host said, “Do you realize you are putting your entire emotional stability into the hands of a bunch of 18-21 years olds?”
7. You read more about your team than you do God’s Word. When your spare time is spent on your team instead of your God, this is an indicator of a heart problem.
8. Your thought time is more centered on your sports team than the Lord who calls you to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). What our mind dwells upon is a great indication of where our heart is. Ask anyone who recently “fell in love” with someone who they think about the most, they will tell you it is that person.
9. You can memorize and quote all kinds of stats on your team, but you cannot memorize verses from God’s Word. I have people tell me all the time, “I just don’t have a knack for scripture memory.” But moments later they can quote all kinds of stats about their team. The problem is not the mind, but the heart. "From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks" (Mt. 12:34).
10. You are more focused on what is temporal than what is eternal. Having an eternal perspective is the one thing that that has helped me the most in this area. Often I ask myself, “Who will even remember the outcome of this game in 3 months, much less 3,000 years, much less 300,000 years?”
So if you are now seeing that sports just might be an idol in your life, or quickly headed there, I offer the following suggestions:
1. Confess your sin to God. We begin to change by admitting that we have a problem. Agreeing that this is an issue is the first step toward healing. “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9).
2. Ask God to change your heart. I remember asking my daughter how she gained a hunger for God, and she said the key was simply admitting to God that she did not have that hunger, and then asking Him to give it to her. This is a prayer God loves to answer.
3. Stir your affections for God by spending time in the Word, prayer, worship, fellowship, reading Godly material, fellowshipping with Godly people, etc. This is the principle of positive replacement. The best defense against an idol is a good offense of pursuing God. How is that for a sports’ analogy?!
4. Ask someone to hold you accountable. Give a Godly person permission to ask you how you are doing in this area.
5. Wean yourself from excessiveness. An idol is like an addiction. We get so accustomed to being absorbed in it, that we need to discipline ourselves away from it, lest it increasingly occupy our life. You can do this by setting some limits to the amount of time and energy you devote to sports. For example, set a time limit on how much TV you watch; turn off the “ESPN alert” on your notifications; and/or pledge to spend equal amounts of time with God as you do with your games.
6. Watch this 6-minute video by David Platt about the cross and sports and allow it to further challenge you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ve9jPfJeT2k
“Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as you are already loving yourself.” Mk. 12:28-32