The crown jewel of football will be up for grabs this Sunday. Two teams will place the best they have to offer on the field and battle for the right to be called the NFL Champions. In the days of the New Testament the top sport was not football. Back then running, wrestling and boxing were popular and the top athletic competition was the Isthmian Games (which later became the Olympics). The Isthmian Games were held every two years in the city of Corinth. And like their modern day counterparts, athletae (the Greek word we get athlete from) were devoted to a course of training which would enable them to excel in their chosen contest with agility and strength. These professional training programs often required the athlete to endure extreme amounts of pain and took a tremendous amount of self-discipline. But for those who remained committed, there were also great rewards.
Have you ever considered that your Christian walk is similar to the course an athlete takes in preparing for a competition? In 1951 a sportscaster by the name of Jarrell McCracken did. He read an article by a well-known athlete and was inspired to write and record an allegory which he entitled The Game of Life. In it two teams, the Forces of Good and the Forces of Evil, square off on the grid-iron with God Himself as the Fair and Just Referee. Jesus Christ coaches the Forces of Good and Satan is the coach for the Forces of Evil. The quarterback of the Forces of Good, Average Christian, faces a variety of obstacles and challenges that you and I also face in our Christian walk as he makes his way to the end zone. In the end, success lies in how well-prepared one is for the game.
As McCracken introduces his allegory he states that "the rules of the game and how it should be played are found in God's Word, the Bible". 2 Timothy 2:5 says, "And also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules." Our success then in our Christian walk depends on how well we follow God's Word. And like the athletes of Paul's day, we would do well to be diligent for the "purpose of godliness" (1 Tim. 4:7-8). The athletes who competed at the Isthmian games and their modern Super Bowl counterparts all compete for a temporal crown and prizes that eventually run out, but godliness leads to an eternal reward (heaven). This is the idea Paul conveys in his last letter to Timothy. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course; I have kept the faith. In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge will save for me on that day" (2 Tim. 4:7-8a). The image of God as the One who rewards the faithful believer after he/she has run the course of their life is seen throughout the New Testament (1 Cor. 9:25; Phil. 4:1; 1 Th. 2:19; Rev. 2:10).
What are you doing to prepare yourself for the game? Are you reading God's Word? Are you in fellowship with other believers, your teammates? Are you communicating with the Coach so that you understand His game plan (prayer)? It is my hope that you will approach the Game of Life with the same amount of enthusiasm and spirit that you show while watching the Super Bowl (or the BIG GAME of your favorite sport whatever that may be). In writing to the church at Corinth (the Super Bowl city of the Roman Empire), Paul encouraged the Christians by saying, "Do you not know those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 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 Cor. 9:25-27) Our imperishable prize is Eternity. Are you and I prepared to win the game?
Ann LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre