How do you usually spend the first Sunday night of February? All over the country there will be people planted firmly in front of their televisions ready to watch the Super Bowl. Some friends will gather for a watch party. Many church youth groups will have a special event for the entire group to watch together. In San Francisco and Kansas City there will be massive gatherings of fans at key locations to watch the game and cheer for their team. How do you spend that night? Where do you land on the scale between “I can’t wait till kickoff” and “I don’t care.”
Pastors, like me, can stiffen in a self-righteous pose and say with judgmentalism dripping from our voices, “There are more important things to do on a Sunday night.” Of course there are more important things, but this sure is fun. I have always enjoyed the build up to the game but I have often missed it because of church services, traveling, or because I was out of the country. But if you want to know the truth, I love watching the game. I don’t think that you should feel guilty if you enjoy watching football, and I am not going to make some silly over-spiritualized allegory such as, “Let Jesus be your quarterback and you will find yourself in life’s endzone ready to be crowned God’s champion.” I would just like to offer 4 thoughts for you to play through your mind as you watch the game.
1. Think of the work those men have done in order to get where they are.
Players on both sidelines can count themselves among the greatest athletes in the world. Strength, speed, agility, endurance, will be on full display along with particular skills demanded by the sport in general and their individual positions in particular.
In what area of life do you work as hard? Do you work that hard for your job, perfecting the requisite skills so that you may be a master craftsman in your field. Do you work hard on your marriage and family, exerting the discipline, gifts, words of affirmation that enrich those you care about most? Do you work that hard on your relationship with Christ, reading Scripture, praying, worshipping, obeying, thinking, teaching so that you are gradually transformed into the image of Christ?
2.Think of the human trafficking associated with the night of the Super Bowl.
This is an opportune time to realize that people are being used by others for pleasure and profit. Since sex trafficking numbers do not spike globally or even nationally on this night causes some to dismiss the local spike in activity. Pray for those who are caught in the networks of traffickers. Pray for the survivors trying to piece life back together. Pray for those organizations working on behalf of these people for prevention, rescue, restoration, and redemption. Our church partners with Rescue 1 Global as they raise awareness and engage the issues on the streets and in the offices of lawmakers and law enforcement officials.
3. Think of the millions of people watching this one event.
February 2, 2020, I will be watching a football game along with millions of other people. There will be some who are struggling with alcohol and drugs, failed marriage, criminal activity, sickness, or hopelessness. Take a moment and pray for these lives to encounter one of God’s many messengers of the Gospel of salvation, hope, and purpose. Also pray that God will use you as one of those messengers.
4. Think of the temporary value of this accomplishment.
One of the teams will be crowned the new Super Bowl champions. Many of these men have been working for years to reach this goal. While it is true that they can always state, “Hey, I once won a Super Bowl ring,” it is also true that they will come face to face with the cold hard realities of life soon enough. Players will still deal with family issues, career decisions, physical pain, and financial pressure. Many of them will reach this pinnacle of athletic achievement and come to know the sentiment of Solomon when he wrote, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2).” Although championships are won, others will achieve the award next year. Problems still rise and people still die. Rings don’t stop that.
What achievements that are special to you? When you are dying, how special will those achievements be? Jesus offered wise and loving counsel when he said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (Matthew 6:33).”
Try to take a single minute and think these thoughts as a way to hold the game in proper perspective. Spend time with your family and friends. Cheer your guts out. Have fun. Go Titans! Ah, oh yeah, we didn’t quite make it.
David Outlaw, Pastor