Texans tend to be big football fans, and the Texans in my house certainly are. We are faithful to cheer for the Dallas Cowboys, but we enjoy cheering for the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs are quickly becoming “America’s Team” according to many and it is easy to see why.
But, I don’t write a football blog so where am I headed with this?
There is a football phrase that has important spiritual application these days. For those who don’t know what the “red zone” means, this is a definition: “The red zone is the final 20 yards before the offense reaches the end zone. This area of the field is where teams are likely to score points.”
According to one article, the Cowboys are improving, but for the first weeks of the season they were tied for the fourth-worst red zone conversion rate in the NFL. In other words, they ran the field but had a tough time reaching the goal.
Does that describe our Christian evangelism today?
Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” looking to Jesus as our perfect example as we do. While Jesus is our perfect example, the football field offers us some guidelines as well. Spiritually speaking, the Lord’s guidelines are essential to winning the game.
The red zone moments of life
The best teams end up in the red zone several times during a game. The same is true for our Christian lives. When a football team gets into their red zone, they are supposed to be at their best. The best players are on the field. The coach sends in his best plays and, if all goes well, the team ends up with the football in the end zone and scores.
Sometimes, however, a nervous quarterback tries to make something happen and throws an interception. A nervous center snaps the ball too quickly. A receiver is double-teamed and the play is broken up. Or an over-zealous player on the front line tries to stop the other side by any means and gets a holding penalty. The game is won or lost because of the focus, talent, and strength of the players on the field.
There are significant “red zone” moments in our lives when we know we are facing great opposition from the other side. Our focus during those times could determine a win or a loss. Hopefully, we look to Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), and perfectly run the plays he sends in.
Crossing the goal looks easy every now and then. Most of the time, however, it is a battle with great opposition from the other side.
The boundaries are supposed to be clear
I have struggled to watch the news for the past month. The scenes from Israel tear at my heart. The weather is turning in the Ukraine and I wonder if the people there will suffer. More and more people are carrying picket signs and refusing to work under certain conditions.
I’m not sure which side is right or wrong but, typically, both sides are right in some ways and wrong in others. More and more people are illegally crossing the border, and I’m not sure how we are going to feed, educate, protect, and care for them. Our major cities seem to become more lawless, less safe, and it’s getting worse, not better. Meanwhile, our culture is suffering because the laws that were supposed to set boundaries to our behaviors have been obscured. Our leaders need to remember what is necessary to win the game.
Our culture could learn a lot simply by watching a football game played on a snowy field. Constant attention is given by those caring for the field to keep the sidelines and yard lines clear of snow. The end zone is kept clean and unobscured.
Our culture probably won’t improve until we work as hard on our boundaries as those field-keepers work on those football fields. We can’t win if we don’t know where the goal line is or if we are playing outside the lines.
Where are the “field workers” today?
Paul was “coaching” the church in Rome when he wrote, “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (Romans 10:14–15 NIV).
Who has those “beautiful feet” today?
Christians are called to be on the field, working hard. Some have allowed themselves to be “benched” and others have taken the field instead. The other team appears to be winning because they don’t worry about the boundaries or the rules of the game. Instead, the opposition is creating their own rules, playing their own game, and asking us to join them on their field.
Is it time to get back into the game?
God gave us a game plan
Here are a few verses from our coach:
- “For each will have to bear his own load” (Galatians 6:5). Christians need to get off the bench and into the game. Each of us has a role to play in God’s kingdom purpose.
- “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). Your words matter as much as the teacher or preacher’s words matter. You need to be able and willing to “answer each person” too.
- “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). We can’t play football on a field marked with a baseball diamond. The boundaries are different. We can’t be yoked to the Master and the world at the same time because we are playing a different game with different rules. If we adapt our standards to the world’s, we will dilute our light with the darkness. Some of the chaos in our culture exists because Christians have diluted God’s word with the world’s ideas.
What do you need to do to reach the goal line?
Jesus answered that question when he told his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matthew 5:13).
Do you need God to “restore your saltiness?”
If our witness has been weakened by the world, it is time to pray for God’s forgiveness and restoration. If the power of our words has been diluted by our choices, we need to pray for God to guide us back to his field, with his boundaries. We need to honor him as our perfect coach. That is a prayer he will quickly answer because he wants us fit and capable to take the field and win the game.
Are you ready? Do you clearly see the boundaries, the lines God has drawn? Are you ready to take some “hits” from the opposition?
Our culture is this moment in the red zone. There is still time to take the field, carry out God’s plays, and win the game.
The only question that remains is whether or not you will join God’s team on the field. It’s a rough game, but the trophy at the end is definitely worth it!