For the past two Sundays I have been doing something which is unusual for me-cheering for the Minnesota Vikings. With my beloved Packers not making the playoffs, I chose to show solidarity with my many Viking fan friends and root for the winners of the N.F.C. North. Like many of you, I was elated by the incredible last second victory the team enjoyed on January 14. “The Minnesota Miracle” raised expectations that the Vikings would defeat Philadelphia in the N.F.C. championship and play in the Super Bowl in Minneapolis on February 4. However, when the Eagles came away with a lopsided 38-7 victory, many Viking fans were devastated. As a “temporary Viking fan,” I was merely disappointed, and reminded numerous friends, “It is only a game.”
A TV ad a few years ago featured a man who had attended (at that time) every one of the first forty-four Super Bowl games. He said he missed weddings and children being born, but always found a way to make it to the “big game.” That reminds me of the fellow who was at a packed Lambeau Field watching a Packer game. His seat was near the back row of the stadium, but he noticed there was one empty seat, just a couple of rows up from midfield. At half time he made his way to that seat and said to the elderly man sitting next to it, “Excuse me sir, but is that seat empty.” “Yes, it is,” the old man replied. “It was always my wife’s seat, but she died recently, so today there is no one to sit there.” The fellow asked, “Don’t you have any family members and friends who would have liked to use the ticket?” “Sure,” the old many replied, “but they are all at my wife’s funeral this afternoon.”
Folks, here are some reminders to all fans of football or any other sport.
1) A game is not as important as your family. Missing a wedding or the birth of a child because one “had to go” to a football game is nothing to brag about.
2) Football (or any sport) is not as important as God. Pastor Tim Keller notes that “anything which absorbs our heart and imagination more than God is an idol.” Whenever we love something more than we love God we violate the commandment which says, “You shall no other gods before me.” I believe football and other sports are gifts God intends for us to enjoy. Yet, as Keller says, “good things make very good idols.” It is tragic when people focus so much on sports that they ignore God and neglect their own spiritual health. Skipping church “because I have to watch the game,” reflects confused priorities.
3) The satisfaction which a sports victory brings is shallow. I am always pleased when the Packers win a game and disappointed when they do not, but those results really don’t impact my life that much. What is happening with my health, finances, career, church, wife, children, and friends is much more important than what happens on a football field. The satisfaction a sports victory brings is also very temporary, since it only lasts until the next game. A far better place to look for true satisfaction is the Lord Jesus. The Bible promises that those who trust and follow him will experience a deep and eternal joy even during life’s most difficult problems.
Friends, enjoy the Super Bowl or any other sporting event you choose to watch, but make sure you remember: It is only a game!
Rev. Dan Erickson, Senior Pastor, Chisholm Baptist Church