Sunday night at 6:30 pm, all of America and much of the world will be setting a world record by tuning in to what will be the single most watched event in history on television… "Super Bowl 50".
For those of you who could care less, hang in there. I have something to say that goes much deeper than a bunch of big boys pushing each other around so they can cross the chalk line and dance like a fool in front of millions of people.
But first, I need to fess up.
I come from a football family. My father was a high school football player. My brother played college ball and has been a high school football coach all of his adult life. He has seen the agony of defeat in losing seasons and the thrill of victory at state championships. David has been calling me every Friday night for many years from August to November to give me the play by play of each and every game. I love it!
It's in the blood. I hate to admit it. Even now, in the fall, on Sunday afternoons, just having preached the gospel with fiery anointing, I find myself in front of the TV. If you live next door you might hear me cheering out loud for the Buffalo Bills or giving sighs of disgust (also out loud) when they lose the game in the final minutes.
By the way, I'm from North Carolina. At least I have a team to pull for in the playoffs.
I also played football in high school, was second team all-state, and received letters from small colleges for tryouts. I have a picture from the local newspaper of me during my senior year, holding three trophies in my arms I received from that night's athletic banquet. Even though I was known for my Christian witness, I let it go to my head.
A good friend of mine lovingly confronted me after youth choir practice one night in our Baptist church. She, in tears, told me how disappointed she was to see me full of pride - right by the altar, nonetheless.
Bless her heart. She brought me back down to earth. I repented of my arrogance and laid my dreams of playing football in college at the cross. I even decided to go to a Christian college where they did not have that particular sport and give myself the opportunity to be trained as a Christian leader. Those who knew me knew how much of a sacrifice that was to me at the time.
This article is not about whether football is good or bad. I admire my brother. He is on the front lines of the Kingdom of God, leading people to Christ and discipling young men to be leaders in their generation.
But I wonder if, in all of the hype, we should stop and ask ourselves if we might be overlooking another gathering that leaves this one in the dust?
I'm under the conviction that all of my life I have allowed my thrill, my emotional fervor, and my sense of grand anticipation get swept up by things like Disney World, the Final Four, and the annual Super Bowl. I don't know that I have even given much thought to the reality that all of life, meaning, and history is leading us to the climax of the most phenomenal gathering in all of eternity - an existence that transcends time and space.
You and I and every person on the planet have been invited to the eternal super bowl of all super bowls.
The Super Bowl, even at 50, is nothing compared to the growing gathering of the saints in the throne room of God for all of history past, present and future. The picture we are given in Revelation chapter five includes "Every people, tribe, tongue, and nation...” (5:8). There is a fan base in attendance of over 100 million angels and a worshiping cheer for the team from all creatures on the earth and under the earth... (5:13).
We don't know how many people are in attendance at this super glorious gathering, but we know where they are coming from. They are coming from the jungles of Africa, the deserts of the Middle East and the blistering cold of Siberia. They include people from impoverished slums where one seventh of the world's population lives. They come from cultures where other religions like Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam currently rule. They will in fact represent every corner of every culture, every language dialect, and every shade of skin color.
You may not realize this, but this gathering for all of eternity is the main focus of our team creator and owner. God began an invitation in Gen. 1:28, when the first words out of His mouth to mankind were "Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth." He told Abraham that through His seed, all the families of the earth would be blessed. Then Jesus came along, elaborated and gave a revision of the original command: "Go, make disciples of all the nations".
And finally, the quarterback of quarterbacks gives the revelation picture to John the apostle. He is encouraging the saints of that day and of ours to stay focused during the offensive and brutal drives of the evil competition. Victory is yet ours to achieve!
By the way, in that same picture, there are also bowls; not football bowls, not super bowls, but "the golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints" (5:8). Those bowls are the key to the release of the power of God to change the world. This gathering is not just for an event that will happen someday in the climatic future (which will in fact happen). But those prayers are now being gathered to overthrow darkness and set the captives free.
The gathering is constantly growing. In one way, we who believe are already in the stadium seat. In fact we are seated with the owner in the owner's box. The Bible says that we have risen with Christ and are seated with Him in the heavenlies at the right hand of God (Eph. 2:4-6).
But this is not just a spectator sport. We are also playing on the field in real time. And it's not just a game. People's very lives are at stake. Heaven and hell are battling for the souls of mankind. The front office has sent us into all the world to proclaim the good news that every man, woman, and child have been invited to the super gathering. These are free tickets in my hand. Will I leave them at home? Will I have to throw them away? Or will I pursue the charge of the owner's Son to hand them out in the high ways and byways?
I don't know about you, but I think it's time to shift the gears of our heart, our hope, and the anticipation of our faith. To what are we giving our lives and worship?
I'm not saying that you should not go to your Super Bowl party. I will be sitting right there in front of my TV watching the game and enjoying it.
But hopefully, you and I will continue to dig deeper into the depth of our highest value of worship and service to the Coach of all coaches; in fact, the King of all kings.
Don't just be a fan. Be a player on the field. Go and make disciples. Let's increase the attendance of the super bowl of all super bowls!
"...Out of every people, tribe, tongue and nation..." (Rev. 5:9) "Go make disciples of all the nations." (Matt. 28:19)