"Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever." (1 Corinthians 9:25)
Love it or hate it, football is a great American sport. Perhaps there is no other game that brings about more passion from the fan than football. If you are from my neck of the woods, this week is especially important. It is Iron Bowl week. Auburn vs. Alabama. Two in-state rivals lace up for another battle for bragging rights. Husbands cheer against wives. Wives cheer against sons and daughters. And yes, preachers cheer against the rival congregation members--imagine that! All in the name of the "orange and blue" and the "crimson and white." This brings up a very important question. Does God really care about football? Surely this is a great theological question!
The truth is, I actually believe that God does care about football. In fact, I am quite sure he does. However, it might not be like we would imagine. I'm not sure that God pulls for His favorite team. I don't believe he will have his favorite collegiate shirt and hat on come game day. But, it is unmistakable that God has moved through the avenues of sports like football to bring lost people to faith in Jesus Christ. Programs like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Fellowship of Christian Students provide great evangelistic, discipleship opportunities through high schools and colleges throughout America. In addition, many teams have their own chaplains who pray with and counsel the players on a daily basis.
In sports today, there is most definitely a spiritual war brewing. There are many evils associated with sports. For example, steroids, HGH, and other dangerous, illegal performance enhancing drugs are being passed around like candy in order to gain the "competitive advantage." There are many evil associations with football. We have scantily clad women dancing around on the sideline (although not all cheerleaders lack modesty), the amount of alcohol consumption and drunkenness at games is simply ungodly, and there is also an abundance of power struggle, pride, and greed present in sports today. But, for all of the evils that can be associated with football, there are many instances where it is undeniable that God's blessings can be found. Young men like Tim Tebow use their abilities and talents on the football field as a platform to share their faith in Jesus Christ. And behind the scenes, many student-athletes are placed in environments in which they will have multiple opportunities to hear the gospel message shared.
Will God loose sleep if my team doesn't win the Iron Bowl? Not hardly. But, then again, he might just use the game, win or lose, to bring some wondering soul into a right relationship with Himself. So as you cheer for your team this weekend, remember that God is able to use this "game of inches" for His eternal, immeasurable purposes. Then, spend a little time in prayer for the local athletes in your home town. Pray that God will use this sport of football to make a difference in the lives of those that play the game that we love so much.