Misplaced confidence

Misplaced confidence #1

The people of Israel at the time of Jeremiah believed they were invincible. After all, God had chosen them, made promises to them, and brought them into the promised land. They could live as they pleased and worship who they wanted because they had something that made them untouchable. They had the temple of the Lord.

But God had a message for them in Jeremiah chapter 7:

Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord!”

“‘Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my Name, and say, “We are safe”—safe to do all these detestable things?

Misplaced confidence #2

The people of Australia in 2012 believe we have a right to dominate world sport. After all, we’re the sporting nation, we hold the world records, the championships. We’re the best at AFL, swimming, cycling, tennis, rugby, shooting, hurdling, triathlon, netball, basketball, sailing, cricket… aren’t we? Even when we lose, we’re still the best! It’s our right. Of course we’re better than South African, New Zealand, England…

But maybe there’s a message for us:

2011 ICC World Cup - Australia Portrait SessionDo not trust in deceptive words and say, “We have Michael Clarke, Michael Clarke, Michael Clarke!”

Will you perform badly, fail to score tries, get out for ducks, take performance enhancing drugs, throw away privileged contracts, act like prima donnas and then blame it on a bad day, the coaches, the umpires, the poor training facilities? What gives?

Misplaced confidence #3

The religious person, the church goer, the ‘Christian’ can become confident in their position. After all, we believe in God, we go to church every week, month, at least every Christmas and Easter. We don’t think much about God at home, or at work, or when we’re out with their mates. We’ve been baptised, we have communion, we’re a member of the church. We’re decent people really and never really do anyone any harm.

Well, let me paraphrase Jeremiah’s words for a modern audience:

Do not trust in deceptive words and say, “I call myself a Christian, I go to church, I do good things!”

“‘Will you worship your careers, your wealth, your relationships, your reputations, your entertainment, your retirement plans. Will you give more attention to ‘stuff’ than you do to God? Will you trust in your basic goodness, and forget about Jesus? Will you live as you please during the week, then turn up to church, and assume God will be pleased with you?”

Well placed confidence

One place only. The promises of God fulfilled in Jesus Christ!

Check out Hebrews 10, quoting the words of Jeremiah:

15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:

16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”

17 Then he adds:

“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”

18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Don’t waste your sport

dont-waste-your-sports

I’ve always loved sport. Playing it, watching it, watching my kids play, cheering on my favourite team or athlete. Sport is one of the great pleasures God has given us to enjoy. Playing sport keeps us healthy, entertained, connected with others. But like so many of God’s wonderful gifts, we can get into trouble when we start to replace the giver with his gift. If my passion for rugby, or fishing, or golf, or cycling began to overtake my passion for my wife, then I’m sure you’d agree that I’d developed a big problem. My worry is that we can do this with God and not even notice.

Last year I picked up a helpful little book called Don’t waste your sports, by an American author called C.J. Mahaney. Yes, I am a fan of small books! I’d like to spotlight this book for a few reasons. It addresses the young person feeling their way in the world of sport and grappling with their identity and self-esteem. It has wise words for parents about how we encourage and shape our kid’s lives and values. It will challenge the elite athlete with their aspirations and goals.

As a ‘would have been/could have been’ sports person, as a father of some very capable athletes, and as a chaplain to elite sports people for over a decade – I’ve found this booklet to make a wise contribution to an issue we rarely consider. Mahaney introduces his booklet with these words:

Athletes, this booklet is for you. Parents and discussion leaders, this booklet is also for you. It’s for anyone who wants to learn, or help others to learn, about what it means to let a right knowledge of God shape the way we practice and play our sports.

Sport seems to be able to bring out the best and the worst in people. One of the most moving images I’ve seen in sport was a paralympic race when a competitor fell, the others stopped, picked him up and they all finished the race together, arm in arm. Of course, this is contrasted with an arrogant pride that we see in some of the most highly paid and acclaimed sports people.

It’s important for us to remember that God is our creator, we are his creatures, and he has given us his good creation to enjoy responsibly. This booklet is anchored on a Bible verse that puts our lives into perspective.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31)

Whether it’s cricket, tennis, basketball, motor racing, rugby, swimming, athletics, surfing, soccer, AFL, darts… each of them is a gift from God. They can be enjoyed and used to bring honour and glory to God, or they can be used to replace God and to seek to bring honour and glory to us. These are the extremes.

This booklet offers helpful direction to those wanting to honour God with their sport. We should start by thanking God for his gifts and the opportunities he gives us. Thank him for the fun it brings, the rest, the refreshment, the opportunity to keep in good health, and the joy it brings to ourselves and others.

Humility is the key to glorifying God with our sport. Mahaney suggests what this might look like on the field:

The humble athlete recognises his limitation.
The humble athlete welcomes correction and critique from coaches and teammates.
The humble athlete acknowledges the contributions of others.
The humble athlete is gracious in defeat and modest in victory.
The humble athlete honours his coach.
The humble athlete respects officials.
The humble athlete gives glory for all his athletic accomplishment to God.

I’ve noticed that Aussies can be rather cynical of Christians in sport. We don’t quite know how to respond when a South Pacific team kneels down to pray after a game, or when a rugby player points to heaven when he’s scored a try, or when a winning athlete thanks God during an interview with the press. But this booklet is talking about more than the public displays of faith in God. It’s about addressing our hearts, who we are, what we are living for, who and what matters most. When we lose touch with God we go searching for replacements and, where I come from, sport is a prime candidate.

So, don’t waste your sport. Recognise God’s gift to you, thank him for it, and seek to play, watch, support and use your sport in a way that honours him.