“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”‘” — Mark 12:28-30
Over the past few months, we’ve experienced some excitement in the sports arena here in the Atlanta area. From the Braves claiming the World Series title, to the Georgia Bulldogs contending for an SEC Championship crown — and now heading to the Orange Bowl for the College Football Playoff — the hype and energy have been palpable. As a lifelong Braves fan and a UGA alumnus, I have been right there in the midst of the emotional turmoil personally! As thrilling as the rollercoaster ride has been, it can be equally exhausting.
For those of us with a passion for our team or school that runs deep, we often delve into the dangerous territory of seeing our devotion morph into something unhealthy. Yes, when we love our team with every fiber of our beings, we leave our hearts exposed to the highs of ecstasy, elation and euphoria when things are going well — but equally subject to the agony, misery and torment that accompany disappointment when our team falls short.
When I was in my 20s, my weekends would be ruined with a Georgia Bulldogs loss. And if it was a loss to Georgia Tech, there was a black cloud hovering for the next year. I took it hard, and I would have a bitter taste in my mouth for quite some time.
I recall hearing Dave Ramsey share a few years ago about some rabid Tennessee fans he encountered one weekend. Ramsey, also a Volunteers fan, was walking around downtown Knoxville one Sunday afternoon, the day after the Vols had lost a game. He ran into a husband and wife who were still licking their wounds and lamenting the defeat. Ramsey noticed their countenance, and struck up a conversation with the couple.
“What’s wrong guys? Why are you so upset?” Ramsey inquired.
“We lost yesterday. We’re just having a tough time getting over it,” they replied.
“Oh, I see,” Ramsey said. “Well (asking the husband), are you one of the coaches on the team?”
“No,” the man replied.
Ramsey continued, “Do you have a brother or relative who coaches for the Vols?”
“No,” they said in unison.
“Oh. OK, do you have a son who plays on the team?” Ramsey asked.
The man and woman shook their heads.
“Then why are you moping around and letting it ruin your entire weekend?” Ramsey replied. “You’ve gotta get over it!”
We can all chuckle at this exchange, but we can also probably learn from it. At the end of the day, sporting events — for nearly all of us — are a form of entertainment. When we take it to another level, where our attitude and demeanor are determined by the outcome of a game, we need to take a timeout and re-evaluate things.
Has a sport or a team become more than that to you? Has it become an idol or a god? Maybe your identity has become wrapped up in the success and failure of your team. You likely didn’t intend for that to happen, but perhaps over time it has become a fickle substitute for the most important things in life.
In the end, there’s only one thing you can count on to give you all you need. His name is Jesus. And whether your team ends up in the championship game on January 10 or not, He’s anxious to fill your heart, mind and soul with the thing that matters most — Him
— C.A. Phillips, Communications Pastor at NorthStar Church, Kennesaw, Georgia
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