Devotional Podcast #2: “Does God Care About Football?”

Devotional Text: Romans 8:28

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Hi, this is Brent White. It’s Friday, January 12, and this is the second of my new series of devotional podcasts, which I’m calling “Still Life.” My plan is to release new podcasts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—in addition to my sermons, which I’ll continue to post on this channel. You’re listening to Leslie Phillips, and her song, “No One but You,” from her 1988 compilation album, Recollection. By the way, Leslie later changed her stage name to “Sam,” her nickname, and the music of Sam Phillips was featured each week on the wonderful TV show Gilmore Girls.

So last Monday was the college football national championship game between the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama, and it was about as exciting a game as you’ll ever see. It ended in an overtime victory for Alabama. One interesting wrinkle in the game was that Alabama’s head coach, Nick Saban, put in his second-string quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, at the beginning of the second half—after Jalen Hurts, the starting quarterback, struggled in the first half.

More than a few observers perceived this to be a desperation move on Saban’s part, but you don’t win five national championships in nine years unless you know what you’re doing! Saban’s decision was vindicated, and Tagovailoa, a true freshman who had seen little playing time this year, was nothing short of electrifying.

But as a Christian, what impressed me nearly as much as his performance were his comments after the game. At least twice, in postgame interviews, when reporters asked the freshman quarterback questions about the game, he said something like, “First, let me give all thanks and praise to my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.” These reporters wanted to revel in this athlete’s glory; he wanted to remind the world of the One to whom all glory belongs.

Tagovailoa seemed eager to steer the conversation away from himself to Christ. What did John the Baptist say? “He must become greater; I must become less.”[1] I don’t know… When I see living examples of this, it moves me deeply.

I have two thoughts I want to share about Tagovailoa’s example:

First, while it’s likely that God will never give you or me so large a platform to bear witness to Christ as he gave to Tagovailoa, he will give us a platform; chances are that God will place people in our lives this week who are lost in their sins and in need of the Good News of his Son Jesus. I’m not saying it’s our job to conduct a full-on Billy Graham Crusade with people, but… each one of us has been commissioned by our Lord to be witnesses for him.

You say, “I don’t know how to do that.” But I disagree! If you’re already a Christian, that means you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; you have personal experience with Christ; Christ has done good things for you. What has he done? Can you say? Christ has made a tangible difference in your life. How is your life better because of Christ? Can you answer that? If so, then you know how to witness.

As Christians, since we have experienced Christ as good news, we should be willing and able to share this good news with others. And even if we don’t know what to say, shouldn’t we be just as eager as Tagovailoa for people to know Christ the way we do? Shouldn’t we be just as eager for people to repent of their sins and be saved? Of course we should! Nothing less than heaven or hell hangs in the balance, after all!

At the very least, we should pray, daily, for opportunities to witness—pray that the Holy Spirit will give us the right words to speak at the right time. Witnessing starts with prayer!

O.K., here’s my second thought about Tagovailoa’s interview: As a recovering cynic myself, I imagine that there are cynical people—even among us believers—who hear athletes thank God after a big victory and think, “Well, that’s easy for you to say! After all, you won. Your team won! Would you be as eager to thank the Lord if you lost?”

I can’t speak for Tagovailoa; I don’t know this young man, obviously… But I hope the answer would be, “Yes.” Yes…

If we believe that God is sovereign, and that the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8:28 are true—“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”—then how could the answer not be yes?

Last Monday on Facebook, someone joked about praying desperately for his team’s victory. Then he wrote: “As if God cares about a football game! LOL.” And many friends chimed in their agreement: “Of course God doesn’t care about something so trivial as a football game!”

And I thought, “Really? What do you mean God doesn’t care about a football game?” God cares passionately about football games! How could he not?

Does he not care deeply about every player on both teams? Does he not care about both teams’ coaches and trainers and equipment managers; about team doctors and chaplains and cheerleaders? Does he not care about referees? Think about everyone whose livelihoods are tied up in football games—from network executives and university presidents on down! Does God not care about them? Does God not care about us and our careers? Or what about all the teams’ fans? If they’re overjoyed or they’re heartbroken, does God not care?

Of course he cares!

We make God seem very small and very weak, if we believe otherwise—a god who does not care about football is hardly the God revealed by Jesus who tells us that every hair on our head is numbered and that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father caring.[2]

If we don’t think God cares about the so-called “little stuff,” well… we obviously don’t think God cares much about us—since our lives consist mostly of “little stuff.” I was talking about the challenge of prayer in the last podcast. Needless to say, if we don’t think God cares about the “little stuff” of life, it’s no wonder we struggle to pray!

No… thank God that he cares about the little things in life, including me and you and everything that we’re going through. Thank God that he’s working for the good of his children through every tiny detail of our lives!

Chances are, some of this “small stuff” is troubling you today. Will you take time to talk to your heavenly Father about it?

6 thoughts on “Devotional Podcast #2: “Does God Care About Football?””

  1. As I noted on Facebook, God cares about EVERYTHING. “Not a sparrow falls to the ground without your Father.” “The whole creation groans and travails in pain now, waiting….” (In other words, God cares about “the rest of creation” which is likewise awaiting glory of one type or another when God finishes with what he is doing in Christendom.) God cares about how well we do in our job, and not just because of how it may affect us spiritually. He gave Adam the job of tilling the ground. David was proud of how God had made him a warrior. “Whatever you do, do it as unto the Lord,” and “do it with all your might!” None of us should consider what we do as not being worthwhile because we don’t see people getting saved as a direct result. (Though we certainly want the latter as well and should be desiring that and looking for opportunities.)

  2. HOWEVER, despite my prior comment, I am much perplexed with Paul’s comment regarding the command not to muzzle the ox while he treads out the grain: “Does God care for oxen? Says he that not ALTOGETHER for our sakes?” Any takes on that text? Is Paul possibly using hyperbole for emphasis? (I note that in Jonah, God ends by saying, “and much cattle,” as though that counted for something.)

    1. Do you ever look at the New Living Translation? One of my parishioners used it in our Galatians Bible study over the past year, and I was impressed that many of its translation decisions (or even interpretive decisions, since it’s practically a paraphrase) were spot on, in my opinion. It “translates” this verse as this: “Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this?” The “only” isn’t in the Greek, but I think it’s implied. Jesus would say, “You’re worth more than many oxen”—not that oxen are worth nothing at all!

  3. Paul make this comment both in 1 Corinthians9 and in 1 Timothy 5. I think that he is speaking specifically of the right of the preacher (of the Gospel) to be paid for that work, and generally of the right of all workers to be paid fairly for their labor.

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