The great soccer coach Bill Shankly once denied that soccer was a matter of life and death. “It’s much more than that, ” he said.
One of the ways I’ve changed the most in the past several years has been in my attitude toward sports. Once an avid basketball player and a huge Rams and Lakers fan, now I find that I have no interest whatsoever in professional sports. I couldn’t tell you who is playing in the Super Bowl this year if my life depended upon it. Honestly.
This change in perspective is just a small part of my life that I’m finding very puzzling. If my attitude towards something as temporal and passing as sports needed adjusting, I shudder to think of what other areas of my life have needed it too. The resolute application of Matt 6:33 — Seek as of first importance the kingdom of heaven — is the only way forward towards the creation of new hopes and priorities. No doubt there is nothing wrong with enjoying sports. For many of my friends, watching football on TV is an entertaining avocation that provides a break from the monotony of life, much as reading World War II escape stories is for me. But there is no real comparison between the battle taking place on the football field or in a book about WW II and the scheming ploys of our arch enemy Satan. His overmastering aim is to get our eyes off Jesus, to twist and distort our perspective on life so that what is good replaces what is best and of ultimate value and importance. Watching sports on television (or reading good books) carries the great potential risk that we will end up wasting away our lives in inconsequential activities. To the servant who was wasting his goods, the rich man in Jesus’ parable says, “What is this I hear about you? Turn in your account of stewardship!” (Luke 16:1-2). Paul puts it like this: “Each one of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (Rom. 14:12). If we are Christians, none of us has the luxury of saying, “I am excused from my responsibility to use the gifts God has given me.”
So the question is this: Am I taking full advantage of the time God has given me? Time is a precious commodity. Its stock is limited. I need to manage it well, and that includes how I manage my leisure. Someone has said that by the time teenagers leave high school they will have watched 350,000 commercials on TV. In terms of a Christian’s stewardship of time, that’s surely a mite too many. But I need to add a careful rider here. Television is not the only time-stealer. How much do I read on the Internet that is really worthwhile and beneficial? Personally speaking, I have stopped reading so-called Christian bloggers whose main purpose in life seems to be to expose the moral failures of others. I call these blogs narcissism factories. They bloat their writers’ egos and smother their insecurities under a hubristic penumbra. Their message is as obvious as a Texas two-step: Either you’re moral (like me), or you’re not. They fail to realize how profoundly unbecoming it is to disclose the dark imperfections of their fellow human beings. “That blogger whose richest pleasure depends on exposing the sins of others — what secret sin is he or she guilty of?” — I often wonder. There is something terribly wrong when our blogs shine more brightly than our Savior and when our passion for holiness is replaced by a passion for haughtiness. By working to weaken bad passions we only succeed in increasing them. I struggle enough to maintain perspective without having to read Christian tabloids. I mention this personal disclosure because my experience, I think, is not uncommon.
In this post I have raised some very personal questions, and these will require some very personal responses. But one thing is certain: We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. And there will be different rewards we receive, not according to the measure of our gifts, but according to their use.
6:27 AM Quote of the day (from Lee: The Last Years, p. 35):
Their third day on the road brought them to the house of Charles Carter Lee, his eldest brother. He dined with them that night, but insisted on sleeping in his tent. It was a continuation of his practice during the war; he wished always to share the field conditions his soldiers must experience. With a literary shake of the head, his aide Taylor wrote of Lee’s doing this even now: “The continued self-denial can only be explained upon the hypothesis that he desired to have his men know that he shared their privations to the very last.”
That’s leadership. As Christians we learn by the example of others. Teaching is not the dissemination of information. That’s part of it, but only a small part. What I say in the classroom doesn’t matter one iota unless it is backed up by my life. How can I tell my students they must live radically for the Gospel unless I am living that way? How can I tell them to read through the entire Greek New Testament in one semester (as I am doing in my Intermediate Greek class) unless I do that assignment along with them? Christian education is likeness education. So is leadership on the battlefield. No wonder Lee’s men called him “Uncle Robert.” No wonder they followed him into impossible situations. No wonder they stuck with him all the way to Appomattox.
As Christians, we cannot be content to talk about the Bible, argue over it even, while the world perishes. We cannot be content to analyze the Gospel, tuck it in our pockets, and then go on our business as if nothing has happened. The Gospel is not a matter of truth only. It demands that we incarnate it, just as Jesus did. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: If your goal in studying Greek is to become a famous “scholar” who evades the lordship of Christ and His call to be wise fools, then please take Greek from someone else. Ultimately, I teach Greek so that the message about Jesus as recorded for us in the New Testament might be obeyed, not simply understood. Jesus is exalted Lord of the whole world, and He calls into existence a single worldwide family.
What am I doing this very day to serve Him and that family? That is the question.
(From Dave Black Online, used by permission.)