It’s that time of year: the NFL playoffs—that time of most intense yearning for fans.
For months fans have been putting their hopes in their teams’ players and coaches, who have been pouring every ounce of mental and physical energy into a singular goal: reaching and winning the Super Bowl. Every team is dying to get there but few do. Fans dream of going to the big game, if they could even afford the $2,800 tickets. Players, coaches, fans—we all yearn for our team to make it.
My own yearning to go to the big game started early—as a 7-year-old boy. It was around Christmas when my daddy told me that if his team won their big championship game against the Chiefs, I would get to fly to Los Angeles to watch the very first Super Bowl in NFL history. Dad was more than a Buffalo Bills fan—he was their quarterback.
Dad played hard. We cheered hard. But our California Super Bowl dreams were dashed when Kansas City won the league championship, earning them the trip to face the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl I.
Less than 20 years later, I had my chance to go to the playoffs as quarterback of the Los Angeles Rams, only to lose in the first round. The next year—just like my dad—our team made it all the way to the conference championship game. We weren't that close ... we lost to the Bears 24-0 in frigid, windy Chicago. But hey, 25 points in the fourth quarter and we'd have been in the New Orleans Superdome playing in Super Bowl XX.
One of the best teams I played for, the San Francisco 49ers, went to and won multiple Super Bowls, but not in the single season I was on the team. My teams made it to the playoffs six times, but never to the big game. So I know at least a bit about the yearning and the sacrifices made to reach and win the Super Bowl.
The best NFL coaches do more than just paint a vivid picture (cast a clear vision) of the Super Bowl as the team's goal. They connect every little detail of preparation, practice, and doing your particular assignment as vital to the journey and prize of a Super Bowl championship. I remember Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh explaining to us how details like perfectly consistent steps in handing off the ball or timing in releasing a pass relate to the constant improvement and excellence that would lead us toward a Super Bowl.
Laser-like focus is crucial to accomplishing great things in life. The trick seems to be in choosing what steps are important and what goals are truly great.
Often we are distracted from the ultimate goals and most important things in life. It may be busyness. It may be the sudden blitz of life's painful problems. It may be the distractions of entertainment, or for us fans, the obsession with a sporting event like the Super Bowl.
I'll be the first to admit it. I love the playoffs and I obsess a bit too much about getting to see all the great games, culminating with the Super Bowl.
But for those of us who believe in and aim to follow Jesus, all the enthusiasm and emotional devotion we have toward the playoffs should trigger a calibrating question:
How much do other interests of mine crowd out what should be my transcending joy and dominant interest?
If I can put so much energy into the Super Bowl, how much more focus and effort can I put into my marriage, raising my children to know Christ, preparing them to walk in His purpose for them?
God and His Word point us as men to the ultimate goals and destination: seeking first His Kingdom, our eternal relationship with Him, and leading others to the same. Our goal is the upward call of the prize of dwelling with God eternally and elevating our Savior, Jesus. We all love our teams. But this eternal goal should be motivated by gratitude and love for God, who never lets us down. And that should drive us to the daily and the practical: to show our love for Him by loving others, including each person in our family, and every human neighbor He puts in our path.
Friend, you may never get to attend the Super Bowl or accomplish your biggest earthly goal. But there are bigger, more attainable goals in Christ. This year let the intensity, attention, and extravagance of the Super Bowl prompt us as Jesus followers to refocus on our greatest joy, our greatest victory, and our greatest calling. How should that make us live differently?
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