I am not a football fan, nor do I know a lot about football; however, years of it playing on the TV screen as my father has faithfully watched it through the years has taught me the basics. I was so excited for my Dad after the playoffs this year because his team, which has traditionally not done so well through the years, made it to the 51st Super Bowl! Our church family had a Super Bowl party at the church, complete with big screens, food, and fellowship. I called my Dad on the way to the party and he was anxiously awaiting the start of the game…coffee and a heated blanket, with a comfortable recliner.
I was very casual and not very interested at the beginning of the game. I was eating food, talking with people, watching the game intermittently and truly believing our team would win as we went into half-time with a considerable lead. I even texted my Dad “we’re winning, Dad”! After half-time, things started to unravel for our team. We all thought surely the other team wouldn’t be able to gain ground with us having a big lead. By the 4th quarter, the party got quiet as we all began to get tense with eyes glued to the screen for each and every play and movement. Every yard mattered (even to this non-football fan!) The clock was running down and our team still had the lead and then an amazing series of events happened as the other team tied the game to force overtime…the first ever in a Super Bowl! The tension was felt throughout the room and from posts on social media. The last play of overtime was so close to the end zone and the fight to get the ball over the line and the fight to keep it on the other side made us all hold our breaths. The player, spread out with his hands barely holding the ball over the line ended the game. And, unfortunately, it did not end in our team’s favor.
I later thought of the collective hype and intense feelings over this once a year football game, that at the end of the day is just that…a game. At Desire Street, we’ve been thinking recently about our commitment to authentic relationship, and how we need to intentionally engage leaders, donors and the world beyond. Like the players in the Super Bowl, we need to go head-to-head, contacting and connecting with others. But unlike those players, we need to do it with empathy and respect, listening and establishing trust, for the sake of reaching others with the Gospel.
As I reflected, thoughts swirled through my mind of eternity, and of the intense “fight” at times to move through a throng of opposition in this life. I realized my own lack of zeal at times to help get “people over the line.” Fighting, pursuing, caring for others…sharing the message and love of Jesus with them. This is why it is so important that we engage in a local church or ministry…to be a part of reaching, teaching, worshipping, learning, and fellowshipping.
I picture that moment when the football was just barely placed over the line and players were piled on each other…all eyes were on the ball and the player who stretched as far as he could to get it over the line. The rejoicing that began at that moment for the winning team was immense, even chaotic. That moment has instilled such a vivid image in my mind of what the rejoicing in Heaven over ONE rescued life must resemble. That one soul, who through all the opposition and possibly against all odds, is brought into a relationship with God and crosses “the line” into eternity when life on earth is no more. This is not a game…it is reality and it is what truly matters most.
“…that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.” Luke 15:10 The Message
“All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:25 NLT