by Rev. Chad E. Hoover
Vince Lombardi, the former coach of the Green Bay Packers, once said, “Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing. You don’t win once in a while; you don’t do things right once in a while; you do them right all the time.” Winning is the goal of football. Scoring more points than your opponents and walking off the field in victory after the game (just like the Green Bay Packers did after Super Bowl XLV) is what it’s all about.
Football as an analogy?
So, is living the Christian life like football? Do we just have to score enough points with God so that we can achieve our goal and enter into the kingdom of heaven? After all, Jesus proclaims, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20 NASB).
There can be no stain or blemish upon your record, otherwise you’re disqualified. Realistically, then, what hope do we have of actually achieving this goal?
Well, what hope would quarterback Aaron Rodgers have had in Super Bowl XLV if he had been the only man on the field wearing a green jersey facing 11 black helmets gunning for him? He’s good, but he’s not that good.
That’s what it’s like for us in this sinful flesh amidst this sin-filled world; the odds are completely stacked against us reaching our goal of heaven all by ourselves. It’s impossible.
But Rodgers didn’t win that game all by himself, did he? And the same is true for us. We have fellow Christians to lean on and support us.
The head coach
Does that make God the head coach? The head coach prepares his players week after week to face off against the opposing teams. As a head coach, God would say, “Here are the tools you need to come out on top. Now get out there and do me proud!” A head coach is also there on the sidelines calling plays, arguing with the refs, and encouraging his players. With all that support, we ought to have a real chance of achieving our goal.
However, this scenario falls short—it’s still up to all of us to do what God tells us to do in order to achieve victory. We know that God does infinitely more for us than this.
He sent His Son, Jesus, who is the supreme example of righteous living. Because of Jesus, we know what a perfect life in service to God and others looks like. Surely with this example, we can win this football game, right?
No, we can’t. “If righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (Galatians 2:21 NASB). Reaching our goal of eternal life in the kingdom of heaven requires more than our determination. Because of sin, no matter how firm our resolve, we still fail to keep God’s Law.
So . . . living the Christian life is not like football? Then what’s the point of this article? We’re not even in the game! It’s like we’re the fans sitting in the bleachers. There’s nothing the fans can do to affect the outcome. We might as well sit back, enjoy the game, cheer when our team wins, and complain when things aren’t going right.
Nice try, but we are in the game. It’s true that Jesus doesn’t need your help to accomplish all that’s necessary for your salvation, but you do have a role to play.
You are the football. Does the football do anything to get itself across the goal line? No. But, isn’t it the football that everybody’s trying to gain control of? Yes.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy being a football, just like living the Christian life isn’t always easy. All throughout the game the ball’s getting kicked, thrown, manhandled, and spiked.
If we’re the football in this prime time game of life, we need not fear, for we have God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit surrounding us and protecting us, reigning us in, moving us along, and ensuring that we make it across that goal line, promising us “that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NASB).
Our hope for victory is found completely in Christ, who accomplished all that’s necessary for our salvation. It is His keeping God’s law on our behalf, His sacrifice upon the cross, His blood shed for our sins, His death, and His resurrection that makes salvation sure. And it is our union with Christ through Baptism, our growth in Christ through the Word, and our receiving Christ through the Lord’s Supper that forgives our sins, shares His righteousness with us, and keeps us in the faith.
So the next time you hear some analogy about the Christian life being like a football game, remember this: Our victory in Christ is absolute. In fact, it’s already been won. We’re just waiting for the victory party to begin—a celebration which will never come to an end.
Rev. Chad E. Hoover is a Cheesehead by birth, which means he was predestined to become a Packer fan. Although he currently serves as the pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Kalkaska, Michigan, he will never root for the Lions. Pastor Hoover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.