It’s hard to be a Redsox fan right now. No blockbuster trades are happening, and it’s still 17 days 9 hours 1 minutes 7 seconds until pitchers and catchers report for spring training … but who’s counting? So I have a confession to make: my husband and I have been watching some of the football playoffs. No, I’m not a real football fan. I usually root for the underdog, but Foxboro is pretty close to Boston, and the Giants are in Yankee territory – so I’ll probably pick New England for the superbowl.
I don’t really know how football is played. Oh, I understand the scoring basics, but it still looks like mayhem to me when they snap the ball. When the heads start talking on TV about that great block or that reverse screen play … I drift off and wonder if Big Papi will get back into the home run groove this year. I am surrounded by football, and I’m still clueless. This led me to wonder what it would be like for someone who had never heard of the game – so meet Bob. He’s my imaginary foreign exchange student from some isolated culture that has no football and no TV.
Bob arrived in upstate New York in August. His exchange family took him to register for school, and he saw the football team practicing. They asked him if he’d like to play, and he gladly agreed – an enthusiastic fellow, our Bob, who wanted to experience all that this new life had to offer. So the next day he showed up for practice. He got a hearty welcome, they suited him up with some pads and a helmet, and started their warmups. Bob kept up pretty well, because he was in good shape. So far, so good. He might like this thing called football.
Then they divided into teams to run some plays, and they put Bob in as a defensive lineman. They snapped the ball, and Bob got knocked on his butt … over … and over … and over again. See, Bob dove into the game, but he didn’t know the rules, he didn’t know his teammates or his opponents or the coach, and he was clueless about the play book. He got bruised, his ears were ringing, and he didn’t understand why all these seemingly nice guys were being so mean to him.
Does this sound like life? Does it sound like your life? (Yes, indeed, it’s time for “the sermon.” It’s my blog, and I can do this.) So here’s what Bob needed to know to play football well:
- the coach
- the objective, the rules, and the playbook
- his teammates’ strengths and weaknesses
- his opponents’ tactics
Here’s what we need to know to play the game of life well:
- our triune God
- the Bible
- fellow Christians
- the ways of Satan
I didn’t learn any of this until I was 39 years old – that’s 39 years of bruises and ringing ears and mental anguish. When you don’t know the objective of the game, you can’t play it well. When you don’t know the rules or the plays, you’re going to screw things up. Unless you’re familiar with your teammates, you’re not going to be able to coordinate the plays. And you need to have some idea of what the other team is up to.
This analogy isn’t perfect, of course. A real coach is going to make mistakes, while the Holy Spirit never will. And the playbook changes from team to team, while the Bible doesn’t. Trite or not, I think it’s worth relating anyhow, so here goes:
akaGaGa’s Rules for Life
- Get to know The Coach. Get to know God’s many attributes, His character, His love, His justice. Meet Jesus as your Savior and your Lord, preferrably on your knees. Then learn to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit. He’s indispensable when you’re trying to play the game.
- Study the Bible as if your life depended on it: it does. This is the best way to learn about God and Jesus. The more familiar you are with how they operate, the easier it will be for you to anticipate what their next move might be.
- Spend time with other born-again Christians. Each member of Christ’s body has different strengths and weaknesses. When you can’t see well, it’s nice to know someone with good eyes. If you don’t run well, get to know the marathoner in the back row. And just maybe, your ability to speak in public will serve a purpose, too.
- Keep an eye on the other side. Satan’s tactics work best when he’s dressed up like an angel at church, and mixing in just enough truth that immature Christians can be deceived. Always keep watch, especially for the weaker members.
And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
1 Corinthians 9:25