I’m a Carolina Panthers fan! It’s no secret.
Oh, and by the way, I’ve ALWAYS been a Carolina Panthers fan. I’m not one of those “bandwagon” fans who aren’t fans any more after about 9:00 last night. I was born and raised in Charlotte, NC. I was only a teenager when Charlotte was awarded the franchise. There was an electric feeling throughout town. I would never call the Steelers or the Broncos my favorite teams again.
I don’t have any Panthers apparel. I don’t own a jersey. I would love to. I just have other things that are financially more important.
You can’t tell that I’m a die-hard fan by the way I dress.
But when I’m around people and football comes up, I very clearly describe my love for the team. People who know me, know that I love Carolina.
Last night was rough! The Panthers have been to the Super Bowl twice now…
And twice they’ve lost!
And if that weren’t bad enough, humanity was subjected to the travesty of Puppy Monkey Baby!
I won’t go into my critique of the game because that’s not the point of this post.
Last night as I watched the game I was frustrated at what was going on, on the field. Among other issues, the Panthers were just playing bad football.
I felt like they were letting me down.
A few friends of mine were blowing up my Facebook tagging me in pro-Broncos memes and such. My Pastor even sent me a text message after the game telling me that he was sorry for me because he knows how much I love the Panthers (In the area where I live, the Panthers aren’t “the team”).
He may have just been wanting to check on me in case he had to talk me off the edge of a bridge or something? I’m not sure, but the point is that everyone is aware that I absolutely love that team. I loved them when they were horrible. I loved them this year, when they were on fire. I’m going to love them next year.
As I sat watching the game last night, I thought about who my identity is wrapped up in. I promise that I’m not trying to pull a Jesus-juke on you, but to me, this is an important question that I need to answer every single morning when I wake up and get out of bed.
The Panthers are a sports team. I love them…. They let me down. But regardless of the game or the sports team, whether they win a game or lose it, the outcome won’t bring me eternal salvation.
It’s only a game!
I started to think of all of the people whom I’ve ever come into contact with who know that Rob Self is a Panthers fan, and I wondered to myself, do they also realize
If someone were to ask me about what I believe, would I be as forthcoming about my love of Jesus as I am about my devotion to the Carolina Panthers? What would I say to a random stranger if I saw them hurting and in need of prayer? Would I have the courage to profess God’s love and mercy over them?
I know some Christians who won’t even pray in front of other Christians who believe the same thing they believe. I don’t want to be that person.
Once, years ago when I was a police officer, I had gone to a barber shop to get my hair cut. I had driven my police car there. It was a brand new car.
As I was leaving the barber shop this attractive, petite, young woman (probably 31- or 32-years-old at most) and her two children approached me. I was accustomed to people wanting to threaten their children with the “that police man is going to get you if you don’t act right” speech, so that’s what I fully expected (by the way, if you have ever said that to your children, STOP IT! please don’t ever say that again. That’s just horrible) Instead, in her sweet, soft voice, this stranger asked if I had just gotten that police car and I replied that I had (I was proud to get a brand new car). She then asked if I believed in Jesus and I very kindly told her that I did NOT (at the time). She told me that she and her children wanted to pray over me and my car and asked if I had two or three minutes to spare. Of course, as I was now representing the locality for which I was employed, I told her sure I had two or three minutes to speak to her. She actually went into the convenience store that was next door and came back out about 30 seconds later with a small bottle of vegetable oil that she had just purchased. She walked around my car and anointed all four tires and all four door handles. She then walked back up to me, placed her hand on my shoulder (still standing outside in front of the barber shop), and spoke the gentlest and sweetest prayer of safety that I have ever heard over me and my vehicle. She ended the prayer by asking God to move into my life. She wasn’t rude. She didn’t judge me when I told her that I didn’t believe in Jesus. She didn’t even try to change my mind. She left it up to God, then she walked away. I’ve never seen her again. I don’t even know her name.
Last night as I was watching the Super Bowl, I thought about her for only a second. I thought, do I have that kind of courage and identity in Christ? Could I do THAT?
I mean, I get crazy over a football game. Sometimes in a public restaurant or in front of people who I don’t even know.
But like my lack of a Panthers jersey, I don’t wear any t-shirts or other clothing advertising for God or my church either. I don’t want to market for a church. I’ve done that. I don’t want to do it again.
So how do people know that I’m a Christ follower?
How do people know that I love Jesus more than I love the Carolina Panthers?
Do I display my love for Christ in the way that I carry myself?
Do I show it in the way that I treat strangers?
Do others who observe me interacting with my wife and daughters see the love of Jesus in my actions?
If someone were to walk up to me at a grocery store and suggest that something is different about me (which has happened), do I tell them about how much Jesus loves them, and about his ridiculous grace? Do I explain to them there is nothing they have ever done that they can’t be forgiven for?
Do I explain to them they can be saved from death, Hell, and the grave while standing right there in the produce aisle?
Or, do I invite them to my church first? Or, tell them about how awesome my pastor is first? Or, do I give them an invite card first? And then call my part “done?”
Is what I just suggested way too far out there?
I absolutely LOVE my church, and I LOVE my pastor, and I want people to come to my church. But when I get the opportunity to grow God’s Kingdom or spread God’s love, I want people to see it in ME. I want my appreciation for what God has done for me to just bubble over.
I don’t want to have to defer the message of God’s love to someone else for the sake of marketing.
What if this person walks away and I’ve missed my chance? What if I’m the last person who could have ever told them about how much God loves them, but instead I told them that if they wanted to find out, they would have to wait until Sunday, and hear about it from my pastor?
What if they don’t live until Sunday?
I’ve lived a life in the past which makes me not worthy of God’s love or His grace. I don’t deserve to spend ten seconds in heaven. Let alone ETERNITY! I don’t deserve the salvation that I’ve received. That’s not me being charismatic, that’s me being honest.
But God loves me so much. I have so much to be thankful for. I owe so much to my Heavenly Father. I have no doubts that I absolutely WILL be spending eternity in heaven… with Jesus!
I put a lot of faith into a football team. I will again next season. But this team couldn’t even overcome another football team when it was crunch-time.
John 16:33 says that Jesus has OVERCOME THE WORLD!
This scripture tells us that we are going to have many upsets in this life. Things will be difficult. Things won’t always be easy. Our favorite sports team will eventually lose.
But TAKE HEART, we have a head coach who absolutely CAN NOT and WILL NOT lose!
Why are we so quick to talk to people about our losing sports teams, but not so quick to tell them about the winning love of Christ? Why do we leave it up to someone else to be concerned about other people’s souls?
Eternity is a long time…. It’s like…..
I don’t want to see anyone not make it to heaven. The Carolina Panthers aren’t going to get me there. My church isn’t going to get me there. My pastor, though I love him, isn’t going to get me there. My wife, my parents, my children, nor my friends are going to get me there!
Eternity is the Super Bowl. This life is only the practice field.
My mission here on Earth is so much more than just a game.
When people look at me, what do they see?
I pray they see the love of Christ.
I pray they see a person fully devoted to winning people over for the Heavenly mission.
I hope they see a person who isn’t judgmental, or rude, or manipulative when it comes to introducing them to Jesus….
I hope they see care and concern and passion.
That’s something that I need to be working on daily.
The stakes are too high to lose.
When people look at you, what do they see?