Contending For The Faith And Loving It More Than Sports (9.26.12)
Jude v. 3: "Having made all diligence to write to you about the common salvation, beloved, I had need to write to you and exhort you to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." (Interlinear Bible)
Psalm 111,2: "The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them."
Psalm 78,5: "For he established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children." (KJ)
As Israel and our faithful brother and sister Jews around the world celebrate Yom Kippur today (Day of Atonement), they are keenly aware of contending for their faith, a faith that spans almost four thousand years, and passing it down to the next generation.
From the begining of their story, they have fought so as to win in the end.
Moses fought so as to win against Pharoah.
Jacob fought so as to win a blessing from God.
David fought so as to win against the mad King Saul.
Elijah likewise "earnestly contended" and won over Jezebel and the Prophets of Baal.
Nehemiah, called back from comfortable exile, likewise prevailed over the native rulers and rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.
Ezra earnestly contended against intermarriage and re-instituted the law.
The Maccabees so contended against Antiochus Epiphanes and re-purified the Temple.
Perhaps some of us Christians are less aware of our need to contend for our faith, and pass it down, unto the final victory. Why is this? Perhpas because we prefer the easier doctrine of belief to Paul's Apostolic doctrine of passing down "the whole counsel of God." Acts20,27.
The Baptist And Jesus Rightly Contended
John the Baptist likewise contended against Herod and testified with his life to reveal Jesus, our one universal and new Lord.
Jesus contended in faith with the High Priests and Pilate unto death, and unto the victory of rising from the dead and taking the throne of David.
In our own American culture football teams, fans and the media troves, at all levels, contest in every manner so as to win. Folks contest about the present and past strategies and history of the game, the players and personalities, not to mention on the field itself.
Everywhere you look today, at every level, you see and hear about the sheer joy of the athletes and fans and media that zealously follow the game, and study it, and evangelize it, and pass it on to the next generation.
There are NFL games on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Thursday, not to mention college on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and the "Friday Night Lights" and Saturday lights of high school.
There's 24/7 coverage of football on the WFAN, ESPN, and Fox Sports, and every major TV Network studio is full of grown men of all ages still competing to provide the best and most extensive coverage of the competition.
I'm not judging anybody, but there's an unmistakable religious devotion that our culture brings to football (whereas baseball is a little different- it's our national "pastime").
Contrast this cultural devotion with our devotion to Jesus in the church?
Isn't it fair to say that most of us Americans know more about the ways and means and history and stats of football than we know about "the whole counsel of God?"
I'm not suggesting that sports is off limits for us Christians, even serious Christians. There's a beneficial and similar discipline that both serious faith and serious sports both require.
But there's a way that the narrative and testimony of sports in our lives can become more important and visible than the narrative of faith in it. Maybe it's that third game of the week watched in a Christian household, maybe it's that put upon look of a father whose son is more interested in the things of God.
While dad wants a ballplayer more than a pastor for a son.
Think about it this way- in our culture athletics and keeping fit is now more visible and public than ever. So people feel no compunction and hesitation talking about their bodies, and what they can do on and off the field, and other people's bodies, and what they can do, and their diets and other peoples diets, and all the minutiae of athletics and one's personal fitness regime.
These personal topics and our fandom are all welcome and public topics in our culture.
But topics of faith- even between us Christians- such as the discussion of contending unto seeing Jesus' face at judgment, is a "private" discussion.
Or, something left to the pastors to hash out among themselves.
Or a few so called oddballs that are more gung-ho about winning a crown in the end, than winning something less elsewhere.
We all love sports and particpate in various levels and degrees, but Jesus, Paul and the prophets of old made life itself about contending for the faith.
"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved his appearing." 2Timothy4,7-8.
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Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.read more...