My son is due May 22nd.
From the moment I found out that my child is a boy I've thought about what he'll be like. I'll be honest, when I saw that penis on the ultrasound I immediately wondered whether I'll coach the little league team. If I was having a girl I would have thought softball, but I'm having a boy. I do wonder what my boy will be like. I wonder if he'll enjoy music like me or art like his Uncle Mike. I've wondered if he'll enjoy sports; I daydreamed about fighting to stay objective as I do play-by-play for my own boy.
I will love my son regardless of what his hobbies are, but I do hope he likes sports because of the mutual enjoyment and more importantly because of the lessons they can teach.
I was reading Hebrews 12 this week and the writer gives us a sports analogy... running the race. Obviously by the title of this blog you know I that like this particular analogy. I want to look at a few reasons and helps the author gives us to run the race.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1
If you've ever competed you know there's a certain high that comes from a good crowd. Home field advantage can be the difference between winning and losing some nights. The energy of a raucous crowd can fuel endurance and adrenaline. The author of Hebrews says we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. These witnesses are hall of famers at that. Those from chapter 11, the faith hall of fame, are surrounding us and cheering us on.
Notice also that the race has a fixed course. Those of you that play sports know that the rules are important, that the boundaries matter. A cross-country runner who doesn't follow the course is a guaranteed loser. So, we must know the rules and run the course marked for us.
Solomon says in Proverbs:
"Let your eyes look straight ahead,
fix your gaze directly before you.
Make level paths for your feet
and take only ways that are firm.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
keep your foot from evil." Proverbs 4:25-27
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:2
When I was in football we would occasionally have "captains runs". During these runs the captains of the team would run and we all would follow in a grueling follow the leader. The captains would take us across the field and into a wooded area most of the time. We didn't always know where we were going, but we knew to follow the captains and we knew that we wouldn't go anywhere the captain didn't already go. So it is with Jesus. We set our eyes on Jesus and follow Him who blazes a path before us. We set our eyes on Jesus whose course went through tough terrain yet He prevailed over it. We know in this captains run that our Captain won't make it easy but He will make sure it's possible.
"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11
Most athletes will agree that practices often suck. When I was playing basketball I was not very good, but I loved it. However, practices, especially the first few practices hurt. Beau Zaruba was our head JV and assistant coach and he put us through tough conditioning. It was painful. But I can tell you that it produced endurance and peace. When our JV team was down at the half I didn't worry because I knew we were in better shape and could come back. Now we were not often the tallest or the most talented and we did lose games but we always felt we had a chance because of the painful discipline of practice. I hated the training in practice, but I loved its results. The writer of Hebrews agrees that painful discipline and training produces results that are always worth it.
"Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 'Make level paths for your feet,' so that the lame may not be disabled but rather healed." Hebrews 12:12-13
On almost every team there is that freak. There's that one guy that just keeps going. When the conditioning becomes unbearable and you're ready to quit you look over and there's that guy at the line ready to run another sprint. Whenever you see that guy you at first hate him just a bit, but then you strengthen your own feeble and weak knees and saunter over to the line to run again. That guy, as much as you want to loathe him, makes you realize that it is humanly possible to keep going, that there is another gear to be hit.
In your Christian race do you run in a way that inspires others to keep going? Do you run in a way that "the lame may not be disabled but rather healed"? Do you run in a way that inspires those who are just about to quit to toe the line and get ready to go again? Every team needs that person and so does every group of believers.
"See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son." Hebrews 12:16
In sports if you want to win a championship you've got to think about the championship. People would question the mental health of someone who gave up glory for anything less.
Consider the story of Barret Robbins. Robbins was the starting center for the 2002-2003 Oakland Raiders. Just before the 2003 Super Bowl he went missing. It turns out that Robbins had went partying in Tijuana, Mexico the day before the Super Bowl and thus was left off the roster on the day of the big game. Now, it turned out that Robbins was suffering from bipolar disorder. Quickly after he gave up playing in a Super Bowl for a night of drinking people began to be worried about his mental health.
Esau was like Barret Robbins, only without the excuse. Esau gave up his inheritance for one meal. Don't be like Esau. Don't give up your inheritance for anything: sex, money, fame, comfort, etc. As runners in the race we must keep our eyes on the grand prize.
There is so much to learn from Hebrews 12 and as a sports fan I love that God teaches us here with so many sports metaphors. Earlier I said that I hope my son enjoys sports, and I do, but what I really hope is that he enters the Christians race and runs with all endurance so that he receives "a kingdom that cannot be shaken."
I encourage you to read Hebrews 12 and run with perseverance the race marked out for you today.