Beit Gamaliel

The House of Gamaliel: The confluence of knowledge and faith.


God In The Game

The past few weeks I have been following a football team through the ranks as they fight and climb the ladder to playoffs. No, it wasn’t one of the SEC POWER TEAMS, or an NFL contender. It was just a local team from a small private religious school that has been slowly advancing in the Florida High School Athletic Association’s state conference. It is a team that has had three coaches in three years and has seen significant player transition; but onward they trod, showing up for every game and leaving everything on the field. And every step of the way, their coach has been faithful to recognize that, though we do everything we can to win the game, it is the hand of God that determines the destiny of all man. After a recent victory, he taught the young players: “When we lose, we thank God. When we win, we thank God. So, let’s give it up to God!”

This team was heading into the regional finals against a five-time state playoff team. After a season of loss predictions, the opponent was predicted to win by a large margin. It was a hard-fought game on both sides. But as the clock wound down, and the opponent made a valiant surge, it was soon clear that the fickle gods of football would once again smile upon the rag-tag team. Or, is it possible–is it just possible–that the God of ALL creation–the one and only King of ALL Heaven–reached down and favored His team?

Silly me…. What am I thinking! Clearly God does not have a favorite team! He has more important things to do than watch FOOTBALL! Crazy!

In America we watch football more than any other sport. It is so large, it is actually considered an industry in our country, with professional football earning nearly $25 BILLION each year, and college football generating an additional $800 MILLION! We consume hours of football, watching the masters of the gridiron battle for a bid to any of the famed “Bowls”. We read statistics and probabilities to determine the better teams and, with any luck, try to accurately predict the victor! It really comes down to discipline, talent, and skill. After all, NO ONE can watch a Super Bowl Half-Time Show and think God has ANYTHING to do with that carnality!

Paul writes in Romans:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

In light of this verse, it is clear that God is working for those who “love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” I guess it would be easy to dismiss God in the game since football doesn’t really fulfill any clear biblical purpose. But this presupposes that the ONE place in the entire universe that God’s presence is simply non-existent is the gridiron! Are we to actually believe that God is omnipresent, and sovereign, and providential, governing the affairs of ALL men, EXCEPT football players? Just watch the last two Auburn games and judge for yourself!

Paul tells us in the next verse exactly WHAT God’s purpose is: “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…” As simple as it sounds, this is God’s one and only purpose–to conform us to the image of His Son! The fact is, God uses every experience we encounter each day to mold us and conform us to the image of His Son. Likewise, God uses US every day and in every encounter to conform OTHERS into the image of His Son! Thus, ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER!

And dare I say…even on the football field?

As the fourth quarter clock counted down, our team regained possession of the ball. With twelve seconds to go, the ball was snapped. The quarterback took a knee. Victory, and the regional championship had been secured for only the second time in school history. It was a prime opportunity for great celebration!

As you would expect for a bunch of young men who have just won a regional title, there was a lot of yelling, a lot of ‘chest bumps’, and general chaos. But as the team huddled in the middle of the field, it was not congratulations and recognitions that could be hear. One voice…one single, athletic, male voice dared to utter a unique sound. One of the team members actually led out, “Hallelujah! You have won the victory!” The rest of the team would follow into what would be a chorus of male voices, “Hallelujah! You have won it all for me! Death could not hold you down. You are the risen King, seated in majesty. You are the risen King!”

It was a strange thing to hear–not so much strange as maybe ‘unexpected.’ But as he had done so many times before, the coach began as the song ended, “Let’s give it up!” And he prayed, “God we don’t always understand why, or how, but you have given us favor this night….”

It is clear that coach sees God in the game. And coach recognizes Him as God whether the team wins or loses, leaving me with this conclusion: God is in the game, as He is in everything, but even more so when He has been invited! Play on, Coach! Avad!


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