10 things christians need to know before the big game
A guide to the big game
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WHAT IS THIS?
This guide offers you a sampler lens through which to view one of the biggest sporting events in the world and to stimulate and guide a prayer path as you watch. No matter who you’re rooting for.
Loving God is the greatest commandment. Too often we love the blessings of God more than God Himself. A central theme in the Bible revolves around the human propensity to worship created things rather than the Creator.
We desperately need instruction and reminders to flip that narrative. What would it look like to enjoy God’s blessings — like games and sports — in a way that draws our attention back to Him? This guide explores a path toward experiencing God in the midst of watching a game.
Imagine you see the Grand Canyon for the first time. Your immediate thought might be, “This is amazing!”
As a Christian, the view of the Grand Canyon and all of its majesty gives us an opportunity to take that thought further: “God, You are incredible for creating this! Thank You!” In this case, the Grand Canyon triggers a thought in the mind of the Christian that brings him back to God.
Apart from God, we pursue experiences and goals in a quest for lasting satisfaction, enjoy them for what they produce when we acquire them, but then must return to the same questions that drove us toward the experience in the first place: “Can I find something that really lasts? Is there any bigger purpose to these experiences? Why do I still feel a sense of emptiness?”
CULTURAL ROUTE FOR HAPPINESS
You —→ Event —→ Happiness
But God offers a better way. In Christ, we can pursue experiences that He creates for us and enjoy them as good gifts from His hand. In the midst of the experience, we can deepen our relationship with Him through prayer — giving us an eternal perspective and ultimately producing a fuller satisfaction that transcends temporary experience. With our lives anchored in Christ, the experience becomes an accessory to our relationship with Him, which is our final goal rather than the experience itself.
CHRISTIAN’S ROUTE FOR HAPPINESS
You —→ Event —→Turn to God —→ Deepen Relationship–→Happiness
This guide is meant to do something similar. As you watch the big game, we want to draw your attention to a few elements of the game so that when you see them, you are triggered to think of and pray to God.
Our culture — frequently even the Christian culture — fails to see how God and sport intersect.
It’s time to equip ourselves to engage the game differently by being properly conscious of the God who oversees all things. It’s time to flip the cultural script.
Hosting a major event brings many people and attention to the city. This gives an opportunity for the gospel to be shown and presented to so many people.
Take a Timeout:
When the aerial shot of the city comes on your screen, pray for the people of Phoenix, the city’s essential workforce, and its medical professional community. Pray that God would use the local church and local ministries to make the gospel known throughout the city. Pray for those who claim to know Christ to truly surrender to Him.
The week is full of fanfare and excitement. However, potential human trafficking dangers continue to persist during the week. It is an ugly part of this week that needs prayer.
Take a Timeout: When you watch analysts and reporters on location, pray for the victims and survivors of human trafficking. Pray that the plans officials and volunteers have put in place work to bring victims to safety and aid in their escape.
Since 1988, Athletes in Action has hosted an NFL-sanctioned Super Bowl Breakfast on Saturday morning before the big game the next day. This year the event is both in person and virtual. Follow the festivities by subscribing to our AIA YouTube Channel.
The breakfast is a platform to celebrate the Bart Starr Award winner. The award is given annually to honor an NFL player who best exemplifies outstanding character and leadership in the home, on the field and in the community. Kirk Cousins is this year’s honoree.
Take a Timeout: Pray for Kirk, his family, and previous award winners who know that with great influence comes great responsibility and even greater temptations that can hinder their impact. Pray also for the people who come to the breakfast, that they would be moved to surrender their lives to Jesus.
While we do not know the teams yet, pray for each of the playoff teams as they compete in the playoffs.
Let’s be real. You won’t have an impact on which team wins or loses this game. You do, however, have the opportunity to impact players’ lives directly through prayer.
Take a Timeout: Click on any playoff team’s roster and choose a few guys to pray for.
Imagine having to know the NFL rulebook from front to back, making snap judgements while trying to avoid getting hit by a player running at you, and keeping a close watch on the game clock. Making decisions in that type of environment as well as interpreting the actions and intentions of players has got to be a tough job.
Take a Timeout: Pray for the eight refs officiating the game. When the ref makes, in your estimation, a bad call, relax. Your friends and other party guests will notice your actions when the refs make a call you don’t agree with. If you’re watching with your kids, they’ll definitely take notice too. Be a model of grace for those around you and cut the refs some slack.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Jesus commands us to do good works, but also, when we see good works, to glorify God. As a fan, your biblical mandate when you see someone act admirably on the field is to give glory to God! Let’s make this really practical.
One attribute that is so prevalent in sports culture is pride. Pride is essentially self-worship. Pride is refusing to believe and act in a way that shows God is the provider and sustainer of everything in your life.
“What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). That is why we give God the glory — He alone deserves it.
The key word to focus on for the big game is humility. Humility sits on the opposite end of the spectrum from pride.
Take a Timeout: Whenever you see someone display an act of humility, give glory to God. Here are some actions to look for:
– Helping an opponent get up from the ground
– Tossing the ball to the ref
– Giving credit to a teammate after a successful play
– Not yelling at the ref after a questionable call (or no call)
– Not drawing attention to oneself after a big play is made
– Rallying around a teammate after he makes a mistake
Using situations like those listed above should trigger your heart to give glory to God.
– “God, thank You that the world just saw that act of humility.”
– “God, Your ways are better than the world’s.”
– “God, thank You that Jesus was the ultimate example of humility.”
THE TV EVENT
Sport is a universal language unlike any other. As you are watching the game Sunday, there will likely be millions of people around the world watching it with you.
Take a Timeout: Pray that God uses the game to reveal a glimpse of Himself through the game and all its theatrics. For instance, if there is an unusual act of sportsmanship that causes you to think, “Why would they have done that?” a portion of those millions of people will be asking the same question.
In that moment and others like it, pray that curious people would have an opportunity to meet a Christ-follower who can explain God’s transforming grace clearly and succinctly. Like the players, pray for a longing in people for something more substantive — for an answer to the question, “Is that all there is?”
NBC is broadcasting the big game, which means companies are clamoring to share their message with the captive audiences these events provide. Each of the 30-second commercial spots will cost the companies millions of dollars. That’s a lot of zeros.
They would not pay that much money to advertise their product if they didn’t think it would be worth the money. What makes it worth it to them?
It’s the consumer’s discontentment with life. Yes, you and me. Advertisers convince us that we need their product. Not only do we buy into it, we buy it. As a Christian, our contentment shouldn’t come from things (or who wins a football game), but from the satisfying life that Christ offers.
Take a Timeout: When the game goes to commercial, consider your own vulnerability to the tempting nature of “stuff.” Confess your own idolatry regarding the mindset, “If I only had ____, then my life would be better,” and ask Jesus to be your contentment.
THE RUNNER UP
Getting to play in the big game is a huge accomplishment, but no team goes in wanting to come out of the game with a loss. The sting of defeat will definitely hurt and haunt players for a while. We’ll see a range of emotions as the scoreboard ticks down to 0:00 and the confetti falls from the ceiling. Some players will march down the tunnel with a head full of steam motivated to be on the field in uniform next February. Some will water the field with their tears.
In a culture that doesn’t love the idea of accepting losses well, it’s a chance for Christian players to be counter-cultural and explain why true contentment doesn’t come from the result of this game. True contentment stems from knowing the source of true worth and value comes from the Lord.
Take a Timeout: Pray for the losing team. Pray that God would be glorified even in defeat. Pray that players — especially the ones who claim to know Christ –would put the loss in the larger perspective of life and show how their faith informs their response to adversity.
Society sees the championship as the finish line. Vince Lombardi, the famed Packers coach the trophy is named after, had this to say:
“After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written, and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser and after all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.”
Although victory tastes sweet, there’s more to life than getting to hoist and kiss a seven pound, 22-inch-tall crown jewel made by Tiffany & Co.
When the game’s over, know that the excitement the players feel won’t last forever. At some point they will ask the question: “What’s next?”
Take a Timeout: Pray for the winners of the big game. After the TV show appearances, trips to Disney World, hometown parades and all the pageantry, the excitement from the big win will fade. Some will wonder why they feel such discontentment and search for deeper, sustained satisfaction.
Pray that their search would lead them to find out who Christ is and what it means to have a relationship with the Savior. Pray that God would reveal Himself as the One who ultimately satisfies and is about to supply all their needs.
Winning is great. Spending eternity with God and claiming victory beyond competition is greater.