Significance Beyond a Super Bowl

Football fans are dialed in with great intensity as another season has climaxed in the playoffs, and soon – the Super Bowl.  Countless millions of dollars are pouring out in player salaries, stadium costs, ticket sales, television coverage, and advertising to fuel the appetites of those who love the sport.

In a matter of days another Super Bowl champion will triumph and the season will be over.  Fans will struggle through the letdown of that Sunday afternoon void.  In the meantime, coaches will move on, players will be traded, and football news will fade from the front page.  Life will go on.  Soon most people will eventually forget who won the ultimate football contest this year, last year, or five years ago.

In spite of the temporal nature of the game, we know the team that eventually wins has understood that their victory was the result of months, even many years, of hard work, rigid individual and team discipline, determination, and extraordinary effort.  Super Bowl championships are not won by the unmotivated, lazy, and uncommitted.

Our UFC (Ultimate Faith Contest)

Similarly, Christians are in a contest, often pictured as a race. The requirements and rewards are clear. The ramifications of our engagement in this contest are eternal and will not be forgotten.  At stake are issues that far eclipse the significance of all the Super Bowls that have ever been played.

The Apostle Paul wrote,

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.  Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty.  Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Paul reminds us of the eternal nature of our contest.  We are in a race that demands our best and highest commitment.  While our efforts do not, and should not, attract the endorsements of advertisers and the accolades of the media, our exploits are observed 24/7 by our Christ and will never be forgotten.  Our struggle is not against the talent and techniques of a human opponent but against unseen forces of evil (Ephesians 6:12).  The eternal destiny of human souls is at stake in all we do.

Rewards and Requirements

For every true believer the reward for effort and endurance is sure.  An “imperishable crown”, more valuable than the Vince Lombardi trophy, is promised.  This is not a prize that can be tarnished, forgotten, lost, or stolen.  Of course, the Bible speaks of numerous crowns (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 5:4; James 1:12)  and reminds us that all of them will be cast before the worthy and reigning Christ as an expression of our capacity to bring Him glory for all eternity (Revelation 4:10-11).

Yet, not everyone on the “field” of Christian activity will actually be rewarded.  There are certain requirements that precede eternal recompense.

An authentic relationship – Matthew 7:21-23 describes the account of “many” who will enter eternity with the expectation of reward for their religious exploits of preaching and working miracles, only to discover that their motive and the energy by which they performed their works was not authentic.  They lacked a genuine, saving relationship with Christ.  Clearly, only those who have been born again, evidenced by spiritual fruit, will receive the crowns of the faithful.

An attentive resolve Paul writes, “I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air.” Our contest is not casual or haphazard.  With daily tenacity and precision we must be fully engaged in the spiritual battle, aware of the enemy we are facing, the stakes of the warfare, and the power by which we are able to prevail.

An astute restraint – Paul’s perceptive words are riveting: “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”  Paul knew that even he was not above losing his reward if he did not play by the rules and with the proper restraint.  He knew he needed daily grace to run the race (1 Corinthians 15:10; Titus 2:11 &12).

These ideas are similar to his teaching in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15:

”Now if anyone builds on this foundation (Christ) with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.  If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Once genuinely converted, we are on the “team” and destined for heaven.  How we play the game determines the reception or loss of eternal reward.  We must serve with pure motives, a prayerful empowerment, a disciplined life, and an enduring faith.

Our Compelling and Continuing Contest

So as millions of viewers and billions of dollars are absorbed in the Super Bowl of football in just a matter of days, it is important to remember that as Christ-followers we do not look at “things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).  For all of its temporary fame, fortune, and fun, the Super Bowl will soon fade into history and eventually burn into oblivion along with everything else in this temporary world.  On the Monday after the big game, remember that your battle continues.  It requires your grace-empowered best.  It matters in the ultimate sense.  The “trophies” are eternal.

Copyright © 2011 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.