Hey, fans, on Sunday it’s here—the Super Bowl!
For our international viewers, that’s when over 100 million of us Americans huddle in front of our TVs for hours to watch the National Football League championship game—the Super Bowl.
A friend of mine jokes with me that this is really not “football,” and that what Americans call soccer is far more popular worldwide, as is (he loves to remind me) rugby and cricket.
Regardless, wherever you go, humans play, watch and cheer for athletic games of some sort. Last year over 10,000 athletes from 204 nations competed in an event that originated over 2,500 years ago in Greece, the Olympics.
The Greeks had their annual Super Bowl too. In addition to the games held every four years at Olympia, Greek athletes also competed in an annual circuit of games in other areas, all of which honored various gods. You might say nothing’s changed—sports today are like a religion for lots of fans! Prizes today are a lot better though. Super Bowl winners this year get $88,000, plus a $25,000 ring. Greek athletes got a wreath for their heads made out of pine needles, laurel or … celery!
Sports’ impact upon culture was not lost on the apostle Paul, when he wrote his letters to a man named Timothy, whose father was Greek, and a church in Greece, Corinth. Paul used athletics to make some powerful points about life itself.
“Do you not know,” he wrote, “that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate [exercises self-control] in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).
Later he wrote Timothy, “If anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5).
Aren’t all of us striving in some way for something? Don’t we all want out of life a crown, a reward, of some sort? What are you racing for, and why? For most people, their main pursuits in life are perishable, temporary … our own versions of a wreath of celery or Super Bowl ring. You might ask, “What in life isn’t perishable?” That’s precisely Paul’s point: Only things that pertain to God and the purpose for which we were born offer us something imperishable, something worth pursuing!
But in that pursuit, no crown is awarded unless we are competing “according to the rules.” What rules? Who sets them? Can you imagine just before the Super Bowl starts the referee says, “All right fellows, we’ve removed the boundary lines; we may change the rules of the game as it goes along; and since most of you complain about the officiating, we’re not going to referee this game.” The game would instantly turn confusing and chaotic.
What’s different about the game of life? Looking around at a confused and chaotic world today, could the reason be that we’ve removed the boundaries; that we’re changing the rules of the game that God created; and since most of us have complained about His officiating, He’s letting us referee ourselves?
Paul was tackling something far more important than sports; he was talking about life. God, who invented life, invented the rules for life, and He’s offering a great prize—an imperishable crown of eternal life—for those who pursue it, run that race and follow Him.
Do we even know the rules of life—God’s rules—anymore? Do we know what we’re racing around after?
As we watch the Super Bowl, or any other game around the world, and cheer for our teams—let’s take some time to think about the larger picture: life, our pursuits, God’s purpose and competing by the rules.
For Life, Hope & Truth, I’m Clyde Kilough.