(My journal for January 1996 records this message as the one I preached on Super Bowl Sunday, January 28. After reading these notes, you may be interested in the post scripts. Every pastor will understand the final one … and will shake his head in amazement at the littleness of some people in church … in every church, let us emphasize.)
Title: THE GOSPEL FOR SPORTS-AHOLICS
Text: Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Today is Super Bowl Sunday, national day of worship for a country crazy about sports. I’m a sports fan too, although a bigger baseball fan than anything else. For one thing, you can carry on a nice conversation with your neighbor and they don’t have cheerleaders and there is very little rowdiness.
Margaret and I have been amazed to see that the second word our grandson (Grant) learned was ‘ball.’ I’ve said to his mother, Julie, that if he grows up to be involved in all kinds of sports, don’t be surprised, that apparently he came to us that way.
It will interest you to know that much of the world has always been sports-crazy. We know about the Olympic Games—which were started in 776 B.C.! The rest, as they say, is history.
The Apostle Paul knew about sports and apparently loved them as most men do. Tonight we will look at I Corinthians 9 where he talks about sports as illustrating some spiritual points.
Here in Hebrews 12:1-2, a great sporting event is going on. This one is the Super Bowl to end all Super Bowls. And you and I are playing in it. I want you to see five things …
I. THE CROWD: “Spectators”
You walk into the stadium and the crowd roars. This is your home field. They are on your side. You are excited.
Jim Mora and Don Shula will tell you the fans are the worst part of football. So fickle … often ignorant of the finer points of the game … impatient … critical …
But good news! These fans are not just spectators; they are veterans. They’ve been in the arena, and now they’ve taken their scars and bruises and sat down. Their day has passed and they have served well. It’s your day and mine, and they’re on our side, cheering for us.
They know what it feels like to be you. There’s not a perfect one in the bunch. (In the Super Bowl today, there will be no receivers who haven’t dropped the ball at least once, no linemen who haven’t jumped off sides, no player who hasn’t committed a foul.)
The problem: Some of us are playing to the wrong crowd. We’re trying to please the world. “Men pleasers.” Sad mistake. The world does not know this game, understand its rules or appreciate our coach. Give it up.