Love, Lent, and Leaving It All On the Field
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17 NIV)
All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:25-27 NLT)
For many Christians, February will be a month of love, Lent, and leaving it all on the field. Guys, make sure you mark your calendar or do whatever you need to do to remember that, with the exception of Christmas and Easter, February 14th is probably the most important religious holiday to your spouse or significant other. Named after a Christian martyr, 5th Century Pope Gelasius declared February 14, St. Valentine’s Day. Of course, our culture has long since dropped the Saint, and the only one who will be martyred, will be you, if you forget those flowers, card or candy on Valentine’s Day.
On Ash Wednesday, February 17th, many Christians will also begin a time of prayer and fasting, as we prepare our hearts and minds for Easter and the celebration of our Savior’s resurrection. Although, not officially recognized by we Baptists, Lent is a great way to recommit our minds and bodies to healthier mental, physical and spiritual living and growth (especially since most of us have already broken our New Year’s Resolutions). The giving up or sacrificing of something that we strongly desire, are obsessed with and/or addicted to, is a great way to break those chains that bind us. As many of you know, my sweet tooth has often made me its slave, and thus my hope and prayer is to sacrifice sugar and a selection of other sweets and treats, and make the constant craving a constant reminder to “pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NIV).”
Another religious observance, or at least at time it seems that way, is scheduled for Sunday, February 7. On that “Super Sunday,” (Shouldn’t all Sundays be considered super?) more folks will watch the Super Bowl than attend church or worship online. Millions will debate the decisions of the coaches and question the calls of the referees. Many will shout Hallelujahs louder than most Hallelujah choirs at their team’s victory, while others will mourn the loss of loved ones (i.e. their favorite players) who go down in defeat.
“Leaving it all on the field” is an expression we often hear in sports. It means to give your all, to sacrifice, to do your very best. It means that when the competition has concluded, you don’t look back with regret, knowing there was not one more ounce of energy or strength you could have contributed to get the win. Undoubtedly on that Super Sunday, many players will leave it all on the field in hopes of winning a prize, the Super Bowl Ring.
The same holds true for our Christian faith. Long ago, the Apostle Paul encouraged a church in Corinth to leave it all on the field for an even greater prize. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul, wrote, “All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step… I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” As we prepare to commemorate the day Christ gave everything on the Cross, perhaps we should consider leaving it all on the field for our faith and compete against our adversary the devil. With the leading of the Holy Spirit and the coaching found in the Holy Bible, let’s play to win eternal souls for Jesus. God bless.
Photo credit: Morris Berman/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette