Wednesday, February 6, 2008
(I started this the day of the 2008 Super Bowl, and just got to finish it today. Read it in that context.)
I had no idea the Super Bowl was today. I logged into James White's chat channel today and started receiving spam messages about attending an online Super Bowl party later tonight. Before that, I had no clue it was tonight. Now, to many professing evangelicals, what I've just done is akin to blasphemy. I mean I'm sure that I'd get chided by them much more for not knowing or caring a sports game was being played tonight than they would chide Rick Warren for speaking another Gospel, but so be it. It's the way it is in this "everyone get saved by praying a prayer in your heart" number-minded society we live in.
With that said, I started reflecting on Paul's words which God doesn't say is wrong at all to do. In fact, he commands us to do it:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Now what I'm not saying is that playing a sport is particularly wrong. I'm not even saying it's bad to watch it on television even though the only desire I'd have to is a carnal one. What I am saying is that when someone calls themself a Christian and gets upset about missing a football game, but doesn't get upset when someone gets on national television and preaches another Gospel, you have to question where their treasure lies and if their profession truly is in line with their actions. Even though the following's actions were probably not influenced by the Super Bowl tonight, there are many who profess to be Christians that would just as soon hand us over to Muslims if it interrupted their idol of personal peace as Francis Schaeffer spoke of.
I started thinking about God's Word and have been meaning to write this post long ago, but this particular night really opened that opportunity. I started thinking about what Paul said, "They do it for a corruptible crown (a crown that will not last), but we do to get a crown that will last forever." Obviously Paul was talking about the afterlife versus the present life. He was saying that the reason they do these things is for something temporary, and we do it for something that will last forever. Why would Paul say this? Was he saying it because they were having Super Bowl 74AD then? Well, in a sense, yes. That's exactly why he was saying that. Here's a little history:
The Olympic Games begun at Olympia in Greece in 776 BC. The Greek calendar was based on the Olympiad, the four-year period between games. The games were staged in the wooded valley of Olympia in Elis. Here the Greeks erected statues and built temples in a grove dedicated to Zeus, supreme among the gods. The greatest shrine was an ivory and gold statue of Zeus. Created by the sculptor Phidias, it was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Scholars have speculated that the games in 776 BC were not the first games, but rather the first games held after they were organized into festivals held every four years as a result of a peace agreement between the city-states of Elis and Pisa. The Eleans traced the founding of the Olympic games to their King Iphitos, who was told by the Delphi Oracle to plant the olive tree from which the victors' wreaths were made.
According to Hippias of Elis, who compiled a list of Olympic victors c.400 BC, at first the only Olympic event was a 200-yard dash, called a stadium. This was the only event until 724 BC, when a two-stadia race was added. Two years later the 24-stadia event began, and in 708 the pentathlon was added and wrestling became part of the games. This pentathlon, a five-event match consisted of running, wrestling, leaping, throwing the discus, and hurling the javelin. In time boxing, a chariot race, and other events were included.
The victors of these early games were crowned with wreaths from a sacred olive tree that grew behind the temple of Zeus. According to tradition this tree was planted by Hercules (Heracles), founder of the games. The winners marched around the grove to the accompaniment of a flute while admirers chanted songs written by a prominent poet.
The Olympic Games were held without interruptions in ancient Greece. The games were even held in 480 BC during the Persian Wars, and coincided with the Battle of Thermopylae. Although the Olympic games were never suspended, the games of 364 BC were not considered Olympic since the Arkadians had captured the sanctuary and reorganized the games.
After the Battle of Chaironeia in 338 BC, Philip of Makedon and his son Alexander gained control over the Greek city-states. They erected the Philippeion (a family memorial) in the sanctuary, and held political meetings at Olympia during each Olympiad. In 146 BC, the Romans gained control of Greece and, therefore, of the Olympic games. In 85 BC, the Roman general Sulla plundered the sanctuary to finance his campaign against Mithridates. Sulla also moved the 175th Olympiad (80 BC) to Rome.
The games were held every four years from 776 BC to 393 AD, when they were abolished by the Christian Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I. The ancient Olympic Games lasted for 1170 years.
These games were obviously a very big deal to the people who participated and spectated. I'm sure they were discussed by the die hard Olympic fans years later. The point is, how many of these games do you hear of today? How many of you seriously care who won the boxing events in the 708BC games? Is it an issue of contention with you? Obviously since these games were played from BC on, they were occurring during Paul's day so they could be directly related to the passage in which he speaks. He speaks of them doing it for a temporary crown. Even though eternity versus our temporary life is a great contrast, think about how temporary that glory lasted if we don't even care about it a mere 2,000 years later much less even know about it.
Now think about NFL football games from the early years. Here are just a few facts from the time starting out:
Rutgers and Princeton played a college soccer football game, the first ever, November 6. The game used modified London Football Association rules. During the next seven years, rugby gained favor with the major eastern schools over soccer, and modern football began to develop from rugby.
At the Massasoit convention, the first rules for American football were written. Walter Camp, who would become known as the father of American football, first became involved with the game.
Pudge Heffelfinger was paid $500 to play in a game in 1892, becoming the first person to be paid to play football.
In an era in which football was a major attraction of local athletic clubs, an intense competition between two Pittsburgh-area clubs, the Allegheny Athletic Association (AAA) and the Pittsburgh Athletic Club (PAC), led to the making of the first professional football player. Former Yale All-America guard William (Pudge) Heffelfinger was paid $500 by the AAA to play in a game against the PAC, becoming the first person to be paid to play football, November 12. The AAA won the game 4-0 when Heffelfinger picked up a PAC fumble and ran 35 yards for a touchdown.
How many of you care about Pudge Heffelfinger today aside from the few devotees to the religion of ESPN that would eat up things like that? I mean this was a little more than 100 years ago, and his name isn't even really brought up anymore. How temporary is that? I confess that before this article, I hadn't even heard of Pudge Heffelfinger, but that might not be saying much because my enthusiasm for the sport has already been expressed. That still doesn't nullify the absolute addiction many have to the triviality of certain events like this contrasted with the unconcern many share in regards to eternal matters. I don't think many understand that if Pudge was a believer, believers will see him one day in Heaven. I mean this isn't an issue triviality. If he was a believer, and if believers do see him, do you think the triviality of a football game will be a "topic of discussion" between you two? I don't. I also don't approve of the fact that many professing Christians hold it today to be of ultimate concern. According to God himself, if the Scriptures are truly inspired and God-breathed, it isn't a concern to Him, either.
Now let's fast forward to today:
Of course, this is big news today. It made the front page of the majority of the newspapers across the land. It was talked about on almost every television channel. It will probably still be talked about for a while. The question is this, though: Two generations (maybe even one) from now, will it even be an issue? I'm sure there will be the faithful few to the Giants who bring this up as a novel bit of trivia, but is this really the epitome of existence or is it a "corruptible crown that perishes"? I used to play sports in high school. I've played some basketball outside of that in various events and such. I've won dunk contests and placed high in others. I even had the chance to play against the And1 Team in an actual game at the College of Charleston so maybe I'm more at liberty to talk about how trivial and corruptible all this truly is, or maybe I'm less at liberty because I haven't won an NBA Championship much less been to the NBA. I'm not sure. From doing what I have, though, I can say conclusively that the buzz was certainly there for a week or so, but once that wore off, I knew the drug of being patted on the back my peers wasn't a crown that lasts forever. By God's grace, I became aware that my pride wouldn't take me through the storms of life. I was doing it for a corruptible crown, but now I run for the prize that is incorruptible. It's very dangerous to make sports and a positive public opinion about yourself your religion. If you don't believe that, try to actually talk about the God of the Bible in regards to what God actually says with many professing evangelicals today. The response I've received is anything but encouraging from a large portion of them. It's true, however, that God saves his remnant, and I've had the fortunate opportunity to meet many of them through the means of the internet. I'm thankful for that. I believe it's only when one truly sees how corruptible a crown here is that one truly appreciates the incorruptible crown to come. Hopefully this post has helped express that.
END OF POST.