Faith, Football and Failure – What do they have in common?
This Sunday, an estimated 112 million viewers will watch the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl Fifty-Two. Some viewers will watch to see if New England will repeat or if the upstart Philadelphia can dethrone them. Others will watch to see the commercials and other just to have something to talk about the following day.
One of the reasons that football in particular is so popular is that it speaks to us in so many ways. While we may not know what “read option” is, we do know what it is like to face our challenges, overcome difficulties through preparation, will, and sometimes luck. We also know what it is like to prevail and unfortunately, to fail. Football teaches us about facing our adversaries. Most times, our biggest adversary is our own self.
David was the mightiest of all the kings of Israel. But unlike the 1972 Miami Dolphins, David had blemishes on his record. Blemishes that we all can relate to and transgressions we can all be in danger of repeating. The most famous of these mistakes is probably his moral failing with the wife of Uriah in 2 Samuel 13. Even if you are familiar with the story, reading it through is a good reminder of how each of us is vulnerable to mistakes that everyone except an NFL official can see.
Specifically, I would like to look at four mistakes David made in this account so that we can reflect on our failings, and hopefully move beyond them.
- He was out of position.
As a great military leader, David knew the importance of positioning in battle. Yet when the kings went out to war, David stayed back in the palace. He simply was out of position. Defense in any sport, especially in football, is all about positioning. Being where you are supposed to be in relationship to the offense. Bad defensive decisions are almost always related to being out of position. We make most of our major mistakes in life when are not where we are supposed to be, either physically, emotional, mentally or spiritual. Being in the right position does not ensure success, but being in the wrong position will almost always ensure failure.
- His head was not in the game.
Athletics is so mental that there is an entire discipline called “sports psychology.” I am not an expert in this discipline, but I do know that we will often do what we think about doing. Envision dropping a pass, missing a block or hooking a field goal and the envisioned action will most likely follow. Miss too many in a row and it is hard to get back on track. When David should have been in battle, he was envisioning how the was going to commit and cover up his transgression with Bathsheba
Many times we make mistakes when we allow our imagination to wonder where it should not. Also, we are finding ourselves as a culture to be fascinated with “escaping” by distracting ourselves from the things and people that matter by drowning ourselves in television, social media, gaming and addictions. We are simply on the field, but not mentally in the game.
- He was not loyal to his teammates.
There are so many nuances to the story of David and Bathsheba that one I am afraid is often overlooked. It is the loyalty of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, compared to the disloyalty of David. Uriah is bravely fighting at the front lines on behalf of David. In some ways he is risking his life for David because he is at the front, where David should be. While at the same time, David has, as you could say, taken Uriah’s place as the man with Bathsheba. But it gets worse. David calls for Uriah and tries to cover up his sin by sending Uriah home, hoping that Uriah will be later convinced that he is the father of the child that Bathsheba is now carrying. Uriah, out of loyalty to David, will not spend the night with Bathsheba and instead sleeps in the street. When David realizes that things will not be covered up, he then arranges for Uriah to be killed in the battlefield because, he was being loyal to David and the men of Israel.
When we have our own sinful agendas, we can see other people, often those the most loyal to us, as tools to be used in order to take, get, or become what we want. We not only sin against God, we hurt those that are the most loyal to us. We should always strive to be more loyal to the people in our lives than they are to us.
- He did not study his own film.
Technology allows teams to study and breakdown the flaws of their upcoming opponents. It also gives them the opportunities to look at their own game film and see where corrections need to be made.
The prophet Nathan has to approach David, who was the most powerful man in the world, with the news that God was aware of the scandal of David and that David would be judged for it. Nathan tells David an elaborate story of man who had one sheep. This sheep was cared for as if he were a family pet, and was, in fact, part of the poor man’s family. However, there was a nearby wealthy man with thousands of sheep. Yet when this wealthy man was obligated to provide a feast for a visiting guest, he did not take one of thousands. Rather, he took by force the only one belonging to the poor man. When David heard this story, he became irate and called for the execution of this man. Nathan then said, “David, you are the man.” David could have anyone that he wanted, and yet he took the beloved wife of one of his most loyal men. David knew then that he deserved to die.
Isn’t it amazing how blind we can be to our own failings and mistakes? It is easy to see the mistakes of others, but so hard to look at our own mistakes in the mirror. Nathan had to use a story (and a brilliant one at that) to get David to take a look at the footage of his own life and see where he went wrong.
The game of football and the narratives in the Old Testament teach us much about the failings of men, the failings of us, and the grace that God provides in Jesus Christ. No one plays perfect, no one lives perfect, and no one loves perfectly. Yet in all our failings, we have a redeemer that delivers us from our sin. We get to share in the eternal blessings of Christ because He lived perfectly and triumphed over sin and death.