Two of my favorite sports teams have been losing a lot the last few months: the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Francisco 49ers.
Whenever one of my teams loses, I am reminded of how far God has brought me along on this journey called sanctification. You see, when I graduated seminary in 2002, my beloved Sooners were dominating the college football world. They had won a National Championship 2 years before and were finishing every season with either 0 or 1 loss. They were a great team. And the best part about it was they were beating Texas and Oklahoma State every year.
To my shame, idolatry had crept into my heart as a sports fan. How subtle it was! I began devoting so much time and energy into thinking about my teams, how they played, why they lost, etc. In fact, I have shared with people before that when whether my team won or lost would often determine what kind of day I would have.
It’s sad … I know. This should never be the experience for one who professes to have Jesus at the center of his life! God was gracious enough to point out to me through a number of team and & reading Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper that sports can be fun and enjoyable and a means of worship, but they should not control your life as they were mine.
Thus, I began a journey of fighting against those idols in my heart. I didn’t stop watching sports all together, but did watch them a little less. I began working towards being the type of person who could enjoy watching sports as a special grace of God and an act of worshiping Him. And I have realized in recent years that team losses are just that: team losses. They don’t change God’s sovereign plan for the world. They don’t make the Great Commission more difficult to fulfill. They don’t change God’s purpose for the world. Whether a team loses or not really doesn’t matter.
And when I see my team gets throttled by a division rival, like I did last night, I am initially disappointed but then quickly turn my emotions to thinking how good it was for the other team.
I say all this not to brag on myself but to brag on God. He is faithful. Paul wrote, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). God has faithfully sanctified me in this area.
I still watch a lot of sports. I still love sports. I still get amped for my teams. But when they lose, God’s sovereignty is not challenged or diminished. A loss is an opportunity to rejoice with others in their rejoicing. And I am thankful to God that He has brought me to that place.