This blog is not just about football. It’s about life. However, this lesson comes from a recent football experience. (Hang in there with me.)
If you’re a Seahawks or Packers fan, I know where you were from about noon to 3 p.m. last Sunday. You were watching the NFC championship game. For me, it was 57 minutes of torture. The Hawks were horrible. After the game, it was called one of “the ugliest, unlikeliest, and all-around most fantastic NFC championship games in recent memory.”
My wife walked in with about five minutes left in the game, and I told her the Seahawks’ season was over. Turn out the lights. Another dream dashed. Another previous Super Bowl team one and done.
If you missed it, here are the highlights (and lowlights): Russell Wilson threw four interceptions; there was an onside kick recovered off a guy’s head by a reserve wide receiver who has been cut by the Seahawks twice (who’s also never caught an NFL pass); and a punter threw a do-or-die fourth-down touchdown that shocked everybody.
The game was wacky, weird and ultimately wonderful (unless you’re a Packers fan).
Here’s what I noticed, some 12th man fans decided to leave the game early when the Seahawks were down 15 points with fewer than 3 minutes left in the game. They probably paid hundreds of dollars for seats inside the stadium. However, they ended up watching one of the most incredible fourth-quarter comebacks in NFL history from behind glass walls outside the stadium as the Hawks scored 15 points in the final 2:09 minutes of regulation play.
Moral of this story: True fans don’t leave the stands because true fans never give up.
Sometimes we humans tend to be such fickle followers.
We cheer and root and wave the flag . . . until our heroes fail.
We scream in utter delight . . . until someone lets us down, and then we yell at him or her in disgust.
We’ll stay for 57 minutes, enduring the agony and the rain . . . until we give up, shake our heads and decide we’ve had enough.
I know, the majority of fans didn’t physically leave the stands, but I wonder how many of them emotionally gave up and lost faith.
So what? What does this have to do with real life on planet Earth where football is just a game?
I wonder how many of us give up on a friend who’s failed us one too many times because we think he or she is hopeless?
I wonder how many give up on their marriage thinking, “It’s never going to change”?
I wonder how many of us give up on a pastor or a church when it seems they just can’t get it together, and we’ve grown tired of waiting?
But what if . . . . ?
What if that friend is just one more chance away from real life change?
What if your marriage is just one or two miracles away from a radical transformation?
What if your pastor or church has struggled for 57 minutes (or 57 weeks), and yet God is about to do something that only He can do, and it’s going to be awesome?
True friends don’t give up on friends. True spouses don’t walk away when it seems like it’s over. True parishioners don’t throw in the towel and trade “teams” when they’re hurting or disappointed.
True fans stay in the stands. True friends and spouses stay the course. True partners in a community of faith demonstrate the spiritual fruits of forbearance and faithfulness (Galatians 5:22).
Because God’s specialty is the miraculous! Read the Book. Apparently, He delights in taking situations and people who seem hopeless and throwing them a Hail Mary pass that wins the game.
Maybe it’s time to learn the art of stick-to-it-iveness and not to give up so easily? Maybe it’s time to go beyond being a conditional fan to becoming fanatical about faithfulness.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged
because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him,
for there is a greater power with us than with him.”
True confession number one: I drink an inordinate amount of coffee daily. It stains my teeth. It’s acidic. It’s mood altering and addictive (uh, doesn’t that make it a drug?). Coffee has been shown to inhibit DNA repair and slow the ability of the liver to detoxify foreign toxins. It intensifies my restless leg syndrome. And it costs about $30 per gallon. Nonetheless, you’ll have to pry my coffee mug away from my cold, dead fingers to get me to stop.
True confession number two: I don’t exercise enough, and I’m at least twenty pounds overweight and growing. I know I feel better, sleep better and maybe even look better when I work out on a regular basis, so perhaps I’ll start tomorrow (probably not). I do have a health club membership, but I’m a stranger to that place. Talk about wasting money. Sigh.
True confession number three: Occasionally, I don’t love people very well. People tend to get their knickers in a knot over the silliest things. (BTW, I have no idea what knickers are.) People are loyal and faithful and your friend until you do or say something that ticks them off. Then whatever relational equity you had disappears pretty quickly. People are sometimes self-centered, narcissistic, vain and mean. Think I’m exaggerating? Try cutting in line at the grocery store next week or cut someone off on the freeway and let me know how that works for you. For the record, I include myself in the “people” category which sometimes means I don’t love me either.
My point in these public confessions is simple: Often we know the right things to do or the wrong things to avoid, but we blow it anyway.
Why is that?
Why is it that we are prone to wander?
Why is it that every human on the planet shares this reality, all have sinned, and no one is perfect?
Maybe the Apostle Paul understood this battle better than most when he wrote:
Romans 7:15, 18-19, 21 (The Voice)
15 Listen, I can’t explain my actions. Here’s why: I am not able to do the things I want; and at the same time, I do the things I despise.
18 I know that in me, that is, in my fallen human nature, there is nothing good. I can will myself to do something good, but that does not help me carry it out. 19 I can determine that I am going to do good, but I don’t do it; instead, I end up living out the evil that I decided not to do.
21 Here’s an important principle I’ve discovered: regardless of my desire to do the right thing, it is clear that evil is never far away.
Why do we fail? Because we are human. Because our souls are fractured.
So does that mean we just give up, hit the moral snooze button and resign ourselves to unending idiocy?
Here’s what Paul wrote at the end of that chapter:
Romans 7:24-25 (The Voice)
24 I am absolutely miserable! Is there anyone who can free me from this body where sin and death reign so supremely?
(Insert answer here!)
25 I am thankful to God for the freedom that comes through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!
In other words, though you and I are broken and flawed by our human nature, we can find hope and freedom in Christ. Though we are imperfect and will remain so on this side of eternity, we are perfectly imperfect because Jesus is changing us from the inside out. He is constantly helping us to become who we truly are in Him.
So rather than despair over your sin, keep your eyes on the One who understands and died to pay the price for your failures.
Rather than give up in despondency after you fail (again), just keep running to His throne of grace and mercy to find the help you need to change.
Rather than writing that person off after they let you down for the thousandth time, remember the One who promised you new mercies every morning and cut them some slack.
I will get into shape. I will love the unlovely. I will because He wills it, and He’s never going to give up on me.
As for coffee, keep praying for me.
I am confident that the Creator, who has begun such a great work among you,
will not stop in mid-design but will keep perfecting you
until the day Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King,
Everyone has seen a political or religious leader implode, and often the failure is sexual in nature. Recent political history has many examples from men like Bill Clinton and Eliot Spitzer. In the Church it’s been guys like Ted Haggard and Doug Phillips. Of course, biblical examples include men like King David and his son, Solomon. It seems there is a potential curse, of sorts, on those who lead.
Tragically, I have way too many friends who have fallen as well . . .
A mentor in ministry who committed adultery many years ago.
A good friend who lost his church and wife due to a pornography addiction.
A fellow pastor in town who now is in prison for the use of and distribution of child porn.
Frankly, it’s happened so often to so many that I find myself bouncing between depression and anger.
How could he do that to his wife?
Why would he risk everything for the temporary pleasure of sexual sin?
What possible reason could he have for risking all and losing so much?
But then . . .
I turn on the television, and the normalization of the abnormal and the promotion of illicit sex is everywhere.
I open up an emailed link from a friend of a friend (it looks interesting and innocent) and the next thing I know I’m re-directed to a porn site.
I drive by the local high school, and I see girls (who don’t look their age) dressed provocatively in clothes that used to get young ladies sent home from school.
Then I wonder in frustration, “How is it possible to survive in a sex-crazed culture of rationalized immorality?”
Trust me, I’m not standing on the mountain casting despicable looks of superiority down on my fellow leaders. I make no effort to pretend like I’m beyond and above temptation. I’m not.
Every day I wrestle (yes, every single day) with eyes prone to wandering, with a mind given at times to fantasy, and with a heart that drifts from who I am in Christ. If you’re a woman, you may not understand that reality. If you’re a guy, you do. We are visual, and sex matters to us. A lot. And everywhere we go, from the billboards on Main Street, to the Victoria Secret commercials on TV, to the way some women dress . . . we’re assaulted with images that make it difficult to remain pure.
Relax. I’m not addicted to anything. I haven’t molested anyone. I’m not cheating on my wife. I’m not holding on to any sexual secrets worthy of termination as a pastor.
And I’m not saying I fail every day; I’m saying I struggle with the flesh . . . every day.
However, in the battle, I’ve learned a few things along the way:
I can walk wisely and avoid the traps.
The problem with “kings” is they tend to think more highly of themselves than they ought (Romans 12:3). They buy the lie that they’re special. They excuse bad behavior as minuscule compared to all the “good” they do for others. They tend to cross healthy boundaries, both emotional and physical ones, in their quest for more. They forget that the bigger they are, the bigger the target on their backs—from the enemy and from others who want to see them fail. And worst of all, they too often forget that the short-term pleasures of sin are never worth the long-term costs.
King David should have been at war and with his troops, but instead he grew lazy in his success, and it cost him dearly. The lesson: Don’t be where you’re not supposed to be and you probably won’t do what you’re not supposed to do.
I can be honest and practice accountability.
Kings don’t typically like to submit to anyone. They fear the compromise of their leadership authority if they admit weakness. Certainly, when it suits them they can feign humility, but they too often avoid transparency in fear of being knocked off their pedestal. If and when challenged by someone “lesser” regarding their purity or integrity, they arrogantly dismiss the questions rather than own their humanity.
Being tempted isn’t the problem. Jesus was tempted (Hebrews 4:15). However, being stubborn, independent, and arrogant will bite you every time. I need men in my life who are not afraid to ask me the tough questions and who challenge me to walk in the light. So do you. Secrets kill. Accountability heals.
I can be a really good repenter.
Sin makes us stupid and stupid kings abound. However, only a very stupid king refuses to repent (think Saul versus David). A wise king owns it and changes. Being a sinful leader does not automatically disqualify you from leadership; being an unrepentant liar does.
James Emery White recently wrote, “You need to be a sinful leader who is continually seeking forgiveness and striving for repentance. The Bible is full of habitual sinners, often in the same areas over and over again, but what marked God’s ability to use them tended to be their equally habitual contrition.”
A humble and contrite heart is always a good thing and the mark of a good leader.
So be careful . . .
In a world where Fifty Shades of Grey (an erotic romance novel about BDSM) has sold well over 100 million copies and will soon be released as a major motion picture (on Valentine’s Day, go figure) leaders must walk carefully. We cannot afford to pretend that our position, our ministry, or even our assumed spiritual maturity is enough to keep us on the narrow road. In fact, those very things can too easily lead to catastrophic failure unless we are humble and wise.
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” 1 Corinthians 10:12 (NIV)
PS. You might be interested in one of my books. In each of them I address the issue of sex and sexual temptation. Click here to check them out on Amazon.
I’m not talking about bedtime dark, where you can still see a stream of light from the moon or the gentle glow of a night-light in the hallway. No, being in debt is like sitting alone in darkness so pitch-black, so completely devoid of light, that you finally squeeze your eyes tightly shut, praying when you open them there will be some glow, even if it’s just the faintest illumination.
Then there is the isolation. When you feel hopelessly in debt, lies like these creep into your head:
No one could have made this many mistakes.
No one else could feel this out of control.
No one could have been that dumb with their money.
No one else could have let a credit card balance spiral dizzily beyond reach (even though you were using it only for emergencies). No one else could have felt the pressure to keep up with others by spending money that was not her own. No one could feel this scared about not having a secure future. No one else could be under this kind of pressure.
So lonely. So in the dark.
You are not the only one struggling to escape the darkness of debt, even excessive debt. A great number of people have shared their lonely stories with me—either on my blog or in person—over the past five and a half years. A lot of them are slaying debt dragons right now or at least trying to figure out what weapons to use to begin the battle. And some have fought and won their battles already. There is actually a large community of people who make hard choices to get out of debt and spend less than they make every day.
But back to those feelings of darkness. When those “no one else could have” statements float around in your brain, you begin to believe the lie that you really are the only one who has this nasty debt problem. Then the gloom you’re stumbling around in creeps into your very soul, along with its partners in crime, shame and guilt.
That darkness will keep you from sharing your story, preventing you from getting the help you need to get out of debt. It will also hinder you from offering hope to others who are on the same path, feeling just as alone as you do. Darkness is an evil fiend—a dragon, if you will—that casts some sort of spell paralyzing us all.
In the beginning, it was difficult for my husband, Brian, and me to “go public” with our story. I mean, come on—we haven’t always been the people who have paid off $127,482.30 in debt. Back in April 2008, we were the people who had $127K+ of debt. It’s much easier to share your story when you have kicked a few debt dragons in the teeth than when you have one (or twelve) breathing fire down your back.
And that’s why I committed to continuing to tell our story, even after there was victory. Because I know what it’s like to feel alone and in the dark.
You are not alone. Cast out the darkness and tell your story. Be honest with yourself and others about your finances so you can begin the path to victory over debt. Get the help and hope that you need to begin defeating your own debt dragons.
You see, the first step to getting out of debt doesn’t involve elaborate spreadsheets. Honestly, it isn’t about cutting up your credit cards, either. It’s not even establishing an emergency fund. No, the first step is simply to lift your eyes up and believe that the dragons can be beaten.
Slaying the Debt Dragon provides the proverbial hope and the practical help your finances need this year. There is a way out. You are not alone. Pick up your sword and begin battling your foe.
Together with her husband, Brian, Cherie paid off $127,482.30 in a little under four years. She scribed the ups and downs of their debt-slaying journey on her popular website, www.QueenOfFree.net.
A graduate of Asbury University, Cherie strongly believes that something can come from nothing and that there is always a way for her readers to simplify their lives and their budgets. More than anything, through speaking and written word, Cherie longs for others to know that there is hope for getting their finances under control. Her family’s story has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance, Redbook magazine, AOL Daily Finance, NBC News, and more. Cherie and Brian reside in Greenwood, Indiana, along with their daughters, Anna and Zoe.
Join the court of the Queen of Free on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest to find practical, money-saving tips and daily inspiration to slay the debt dragon.