As shorter days and cooler evenings begin their inevitable approach, millions of Americans will soon find themselves reaching deep into their closets to pull out their favorite team hoodies in preparation for the fall season. It’s a great time to be fan. By the third week of September, football season really begins gaining momentum and conference and division races start to take shape with rivalry matchups approaching off in the distance. This is the time of the year when the schedule that we’ve seen for months finally comes into focus. Every weekend seems to offer a nail biting experience as we eagerly await and anticipate the journey that our team will travel in the coming weeks. It’s not always easy on the old ticker watching the games unfold from the stands. But our experiences cannot begin to compare with those of the individuals on the field sacrificing themselves for our weekend entertainment.
There’s very little risk involved in being a fan. Sure, we may have invested some money in tickets, concessions, and gameday gear, but that’s all part of the experience that we’re seeking to be a part of, and it’s not free. So what if our team misses expectations and we feel discouraged by the outcome…big deal. We should have understood coming in that our personal sacrifice would be minimal and our potential gain at the sake of the athletes would be great. The players and coaches on the field of battle are the ones making the real investment, not the fans. They are the individuals asked to perform at an elite level week in and week out in front of a stadium filled with relentless fans and critics alike. And I don’t think we should ever downplay the value of their investment, because it’s huge, and it takes guts.
Some of us may have had dreams of playing sports at the collegiate or professional level when we were younger. And a small percentage of us may have decided to pursue those goals relentlessly only to ultimately find that we were not well equipped to see them come to fruition. But I’d wager to say that the majority of us stopped long before we were ever denied the opportunity. Most individuals choose to become fans because for them it’s easier to watch from the sidelines than to put in the work and risk failure on the field. That’s why I am so impressed by the young men who make the commitment to do it week after week in front of fifty to one-hundred thousand or more fans. That’s impressive and it deserves recognition, whether the scoreboard tally is in the team’s favor or not. To have the courage to sacrifice everything that you have in preparation for a long season where you will routinely risk failure in front of the masses is a noble thing.
It reminds me a bit of Christ’s journey with his disciples. Twelve men gave up everything to follow Jesus from town to town preaching and delivering the Good News. The Lord requested that they take nothing with them on their journey: no traveler’s conveniences, no food, no money, not even a change of clothes. And in faith they answered His calling and set out on their journey, relying on the kindhearted individuals they met to receive them and welcome them into their homes. They knew that they would meet resistance, and that their lives might be placed in jeopardy as a result of the Gospel, but they followed anyway. They risked the lives that they knew in order to fulfill their callings from God.
As Christians, it’s easy to step back and simply be a fan of Jesus. We can sit on the sidelines and cheer from the pew in church, but it takes guts to surrender to the Lord’s true calling for our lives. Not everyone is built to be a college or professional athlete. Most of us have been called to a far different service. But we won’t ever be able to fully realize the depth of our purpose if we aren’t willing to suit up and head into battle with Christ. We cannot fulfill His calling looking on from the distance. Jesus appreciates our praise and support, but He also desires our surrender to His plan and our willingness to see it through. The Lord needs warriors on His field of battle with Him willing to risk it all in front of the masses in order to glorify him day after day, week after week, and year after year – win or lose.
This Saturday when my Tar Heels head east to Greenville for their first away game of the season at East Carolina, I’ll be reminded of the guts that it takes to go out on the road and risk failure in front of an overwhelmingly hostile crowd. As I sit on my comfortable couch in front of my TV at kickoff, I’ll remember the sacrifices of the young men going into battle for the sake of myself and fans across the state and around the country. And I’ll be inspired to get back to pursuing my own purpose when that contest ends. Because while these days I may only be a fan of football, I will forever be a disciple of Christ. And I will not merely cheer on His ministry from the sidelines. I will go out and share it with the masses despite any resistance that I may encounter along the way. Jesus never guaranteed that His way would be the easy way, but He did ensure us that it would be the best way. So I will see my calling through to its completion, persevering through the hardships of a long season with the knowledge of my eventual victory in His amazing grace.
Will you choose to suit up for Christ with me? There are plenty of open spots on the roster…
May God Bless!