Published: 3 years ago

On Field Goals and False Idols

The following post includes the rare use of a sports metaphor to make a point. Yes. I know I don’t do sports metaphors. Yes. I know I don’t know anything about sports. Yes. I know this ought to be interesting. Let’s get started, shall we?

I’m from Tennessee, and fall Saturdays in Tennessee mean football. And there’s one particular fall Saturday in Tennessee that especially means football, and that’s the Tennessee-Florida game. Even non-sports followers like me know that particular matchup is a Really Big Deal.

So you can imagine that after this weekend’s game, when Tennessee saw their 11th straight loss to the Gators, my Tennessee family and friends were a little – how can I put this – chagrined. Verklempt. Overcome with emotions that are usually reserved for the death of a puppy.

And to a non-sports fan, the whole thing seemed rather silly. (I say this to you and no one else. Let’s keep it between us.) After all, Facebook rants and heartache over some overgrown college kids carrying a dead pig around the field? It all felt a little overblown.

And then: cue the Holy Spirit.

Within a couple of hours after the game, that still small voice was rather clear:

You do the same thing.

No, I’m not enough of a sports nut to care one way or another when someone posts a W. I can’t explain the difference between a field goal and a free throw.

But there are things that I care about at least as much as my friends care about the ol’ athletic arena. There are plenty of weekends when a system fouls up, a guest falls through the cracks, or a volunteer fails to execute their role. And on those weekends, I’m the guy screaming at the bad play in my head. I’m the one moping on a Sunday afternoon about what went wrong. And I’m the one placing way too much faith in things that are temporary.

St. Augustine said that worry, fear, sadness, and anxiety is the smoke from a fire that rises from the altar of our idolatry. When we follow the smoke, we find the things that we’ve substituted for our hope in God. Whether it’s a football game or a ministry initiative, we all try to pin our happiness on things that don’t satisfy. And when those things fail us, we’re reminded again about the emptiness of our pursuits.

So this week, enjoy your football. Pursue your ministry goals. But find your satisfaction in Jesus and Jesus alone.


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