The game was close. No matter if you pulled for the Clemson Tigers or the Crimson Tide you had to watch until the final seconds to learn the outcome. No shut out for either defense. No easy and often scoring for either offense. This was a battle won and lost on both sides of the ball by both teams during the game. There were moments when it seemed the game was all Clemson, then the tide would turn and it would seem all Crimson. Both offenses had around the 500 yard mark in total offense with Clemson leading the statistics. The difference was special teams and turn overs. That is ultimately why the Crimson Tide came out on top.
But that is not the story. The story is that the game was close, much closer than my blood pressure liked. Why? Why was the game close? Simple both teams played hard. Both teams played a full 60 minutes. No one gave up. Both teams had a drive to win the desire to finish.
During the time the apostles and other leaders of the early Church were living and writing sporting events were a part of Greek culture. Soldiers and warriors would participate in games to demonstrate their readiness for battle and their prowess in combat. Games might include foot races (comparable to modern marathons), hand to hand combat (similar to boxing or UFC), and wrestling matches.
Notice some the references to these competitions in the pages of scripture:
- “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
- “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
- “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
- “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)
Watching the College Football Playoff last night, I am ultimately proud of both teams for their preparation, their endurance, and the fight to the end. It was an epic battle and a great finish. More specifically as a resident of Tuscaloosa County and having a couple of players as a part of our college group at Central, I am proud of the TIDE – Roll Tide Roll.
More importantly, I want to put into practice and I want you to put into practice the intestinal fortitude we witnessed in that arena into our spiritual race. In the words of the Hebrew writer,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).