I grew up playing football. From the third grade through parts of college, with the exception of a handful of years, I played. I would say I played competitively, but that would be a stretch since not many of the teams I was on were very competitive. When I was playing pee-wee football in elementary school, anybody from third through sixth grade could play. Now, I’ve always been a healthy fella, but there is a big difference between a third grader and a sixth grader. One memory from my fourth grade year stands out.
I’ll never forget the sequence of events that took place during one particular game. It was at some point during the second half of the game, I’m sure we were losing, and I was lined up at right guard. For the football illiterate, I was to the right of the center (aka the guy who snaps the ball to the quarterback). Now, I had been playing this position the entire game up to this point, so I had gone up against the same guy all night long. My job was simple, fire off the ball and drive my opponent back to form a hole for our running back to get through. For whatever reason, the opposing team put in a new defensive tackle (the guy I was responsible for guarding). This doesn’t seem like it would be a big deal, but it was. You see, the guy I was now guarding was a sixth grader, or a recent college graduate, it was hard to tell the difference. To make matters worse, I remember looking up at him from my stance and hearing the guy growling and barking at me. I mean, I hadn’t even had a chance to talk bad about his mom at this point (I’m slightly kidding) and I didn’t steal his lunch money (I didn’t go to school with him). I don’t know what possessed this guy to bark, but it put fear in me like I had never felt up to that point.
Again, I knew my job. I knew what I was supposed to do. I knew the technique (as much as a fourth grader could). Just because I was facing a new opponent didn’t mean my job changed any. My job was still to fire off the ball and block the guy in front of me. Here’s the thing, that isn’t at all what I did. When I say this guy scared me, that is a tremendous understatement. I may have just come short of yelling, “I want my mommy” when I saw this guy and heard his vicious growl. So the quarterback eventually calls for the ball, the centers snap it, and the play is under way. I didn’t do anything like I was supposed to. In fact, I stood straight up (a no no for offensive linemen), pivoted (another no no), and watched the guy I was supposed to guard fly past me untouched to tackle the quarterback. Now, I know this sounds bad, but really, it gets worse. Our quarterback was slow to get up. Once he finally got up, he was holding his arm. Yep, his arm was broken. Oh, and our head coach was the quarterback’s brother. Life was not good for me, but I have to admit, that defensive player had textbook form on that tackle.
I know that story is kind of silly. The worst part is it’s true. I think there is a lot for us to learn from this though. You see, I think more times than not, as followers of Christ, we play scared. We know exactly what we are supposed to do. We know we have been commissioned to go and make disciples. We know we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. We know we are called to share the gospel and Christ’s love with those we come in contact with. We know the techniques. We know everything we need in order to be successful, but we are scared.
We are scared what others will say about us if we speak up for the gospel. We are afraid of what people may think about us. We are afraid of what it may cost us if we live our lives in the manner Christ has called us to live. Some of you may be reading this and thinking to yourselves, “I’m not living in fear. I’m not afraid of what people will think about me?” When is the last time you shared your faith? When is the last time you helped a stranger in need? You see, it’s easy to say we aren’t afraid, but it’s harder to live that way. Can’t we just talk to people about football, our relationship status, and the burdens of work? No, that isn’t what Christ has called us to share with others. Are those bad topics? No. However, we often can talk to people about everything under the sun, except for our faith in Christ. Maybe the above conversation topics can be starters for getting somebody to open up for a gospel conversation, but often, if we are honest, our conversations end at football, work, or some other topic.
May we start being fearless. May we commit this year to being obedient to what Christ has called us to. May we share Christ this year with those we come in contact with. May we not be overcome by fear, but rather, may we rest in the Lord and trust Him to guide us through each conversation we have. I don’t won’t my life to be summed up with the word “fear”. Instead, I want my life to be summed up as “faithful” and “obedient”.
Brothers and sisters, we have the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us not live a life of fear. May we be like the disciples in Matthew 4 and cling to Christ even when it may mean leaving everything we have ever known behind. May we be like David in 1 Samuel 17 and charge the battle lines for the sake of the gospel. May we be like Peter and John in Acts 4 and continue to speak about Christ even when people tell us to be silent. May 2017 be a year we all choose to be fearless. We know that Christ is enough. We know what Christ has called us to. We know He has given us the power and ability to do this through the Holy Spirit. Let us get busy in seeking to see the Great Commission fulfilled. Let us get busy telling people about the hope that is only found in Christ. Let us get busy living fearlessly for the sake of the gospel. We have work to do. May we accomplish much for the sake of the gospel in 2017.