Football season is almost over, and other sports seasons will soon begin. Supporting our favorite teams and being competitive with the opposite side’s fans is some of our favorite pastimes; it’s what makes sports fun. We enjoy the thrill of cheering our team on when they score points, and spending time with friends and family as we do so. But it begs the question, do we feel as strongly about our faith as we do our favorite sport? We have seen evidence of the fact that many do not, from some skipping worship services or a fellowship time to see the game, to letting their love of sports simply drive them to apathy about their faith. How can we remedy this? Let us notice some characteristics of an avid sports fan which can compare (and contrast to) our Christian life.
“I’m a die-hard fan.”
Many sports fans claim that they will be supporting their team “till they die”. The term “die-hard” can be defined as “vigorously maintaining a position, attitude or cause to the very last”. They can never imagine themselves rooting for any other team, and far be it from them even to be seen near the rival team! A true Christian is faithful to God until death and no force or power will ever be able to sway them (Revelation 2:10). We must be so adamant about the cause for Christ that even the thought of deserting Him could never cross our minds. In Scripture, we have the example of Solomon, who purposed to serve the Lord “with a whole heart and with a willing mind” (1 Chronicles 28:9). Jesus tells us that we are to love God and those around us with every ounce of our being (Matthew 22:37-39). He also teaches us about the constant, daily surrender that comes with following Him in Luke 9:23: “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” What marks a “die-hard Christian” is that under no circumstances will he or she succumb to the enemy’s side, and will eagerly stick by Christ for a lifetime and beyond.
“You will never hear those words come out of my mouth.”
What kind of ardent fan would you be if your battle cry was sometimes that of your team and sometimes that of the rival team? True sports fans are loyal to their team in that you would never hear the rival team’s motto come out of their mouths. Where I come from, it is like “dirty words” for an Auburn fan to utter the phrase, “Roll Tide”, or an Alabama fan to shout, “War Eagle”. Are we that choosy about all the words that we say? As followers of Christ, we always aim for our words to be pleasing to God (Psalm 19:14). Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Could we boldly declare to someone that they would never hear us take God’s name in vain, talk about another person behind their back, or tell an inappropriate joke? If so, it can only result out of a fierce loyalty to our God.
“I could tell you anything you wanted to know about my team.”
Great sports lovers take pride in knowing about the history of their favorite sport, who has been the coach for the past thirty years, and how each play should or should not be made. They may even watch Sportscenter or College Gameday every chance they get just to make sure they don’t miss any important information. In comparison, a true follower of Christ is passionate about learning God’s Word. He is hungry for more knowledge about God, because he knows that is what will help him draw closer to his Savior (Matthew 5:6). If someone were to ask us what we knew about a particular Bible subject, could we jump right on it? Do we know how to answer those who may ask us about our faith (1 Peter 3:15)? With loyalty to our Master should automatically come great zeal about learning and obeying His Word.
Now stepping back a little bit, we can see that in the sports world, there are sports fans, and then there are sports followers. Fans may root for and support a specific team, but a follower is more specifically a “die-hard” fan; he is not going to be moved from his position. So in view of our Christian life, the question really comes down to: Are you a fan or a follower?
Here’s the difference. A fan of Christ will proclaim his devotion, when it is convenient. He will support the good works of the church, and maybe even give some money toward benevolent efforts. Around his fellow fans, he is all about giving praise to God, even telling Jesus, “You are #1”. When hearing a lesson on the Bible, he agrees with what a good Person Jesus was, yet is not quite willing to accept His atoning sacrifice. But a follower of Christ is so much more. He is not only aware of the surrender that comes with giving one’s life to the Lord, but is willing to do whatever it takes to follow Him. He earnestly looks forward to studying and worshipping God with his fellow brothers and sisters. Since Christ is at the heart of all he does, Christ is no longer simply “#1” in his life; He is his life (Colossians 3:1-4). Not only is this follower supporting the works of his church family, but he is actively involved with spreading the gospel, whether it means helping to lead in worship, teach a Bible class, or go on a mission trip. He is ever striving to be a disciple of Christ, and encouraging others to do the same.
While supporting our favorite team is harmless and all in good fun, we must be sure that Christ takes the first priority in our hearts. Each one of us, no matter our hobbies or interests, must continually examine ourselves, to see whether or not we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). We must consider what it is we are more passionate about — something that will only last as long as this earth will, or the things that are from above which will last for eternity? Be a die-hard sports fan, but be an even more devoted Christ follower.