THE SAINTS GOT ROBBED! NFL No-calls and the Judgment of God

THE SAINTS GOT ROBBED! NFL No-calls and the Judgment of God

The Saints got robbed! Or, maybe not. It depends on your point of view.

In case you don’t care about sports or have been living under a rock, the New Orleans Saints came within a few seconds of being the NFC champions last week and going to their second Super Bowl under coach Sean Payton, and quarterback Drew Brees. They were tied 20-20 on the Rams 13 yard-line, third-down and ten to go with 1:45 left on the clock and had possession of the ball. They only needed one more first down and a chip-shot field goal to run out the clock and win. Brees threw to Tommy Lee Lewis who was hit by Rams defensive back Nickell Robey Coleman and knocked out of bounds before he could touch the ball. It was obvious pass interference, but the ref made no call. The Rams kicker tied the game with a fifty-seven-yard field goal and LA won it in overtime.

The Superdome exploded in rage and the whole sports world is still talking about it. Some fans are so upset, they are suing the NFL over the call. Maybe they shouldn’t have bet so much on the game.

New Orleans Saints Tight End, Benjamin Watson, interviewed by Fox News Laura Ingraham, said, “We as athletes have a saying: It’s an imperfect game played by imperfect people and obviously, refereed by imperfect humans … When you have a non-call at a clutch time in a game like this, that’s not how any team wants to win or lose … but we understand that life goes on and life isn’t fair.”[1]

Watson, who is an evangelical Christian, nailed the biblical worldview, not only about the NFC championship, but about football in general. One of the reasons we love football so much is that it’s a microcosm of life. The referees are imperfect, the players are imperfect, and the game is imperfect. That’s what happens in a fallen world. Rules are important, especially where player safety is concerned. But the more perfect we try to make the competition with rules and video reviews the less it will look like real life—unless you like lawyers—and the less we will like it.

What Watson said about the game is also true about life. “We as a league, the NFL, try to put forth a product that is full of integrity, something that we can be proud of. But these things happen, and the sad thing is that there is no remedy.”[2]

No matter how long God allows us to live on this earth we will be imperfect players in an imperfect game being refereed by imperfect people. We try our best to represent the perfection Jesus modeled. But we will fail, life won’t be fair, and bad things will happen. The good news is that there is Someone watching who sees everything, who is completely impartial, who never blows a call, and who will render just judgment when the game of life is over. We can make peace with injustice and unfairness because we know he will make things right in the end.

13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. [3]

 17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.[4]

The even better news? Christ has taken all the penalties that we deserved with him to the Cross. We—including NFL referees—are free to pursue excellence without worrying about our mistakes, yet conscious of what our sins cost him and motivated not to repeat them. Put your faith in him.

[1] https://video.foxnews.com/v/5992638275001/#sp=show-clips

[2] ibid

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Heb 4:13). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] The New International Version. (2011). (1 Pe 1:17). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

FINDING HAPPINESS

How do you find happiness? Apparently, more and more young Americans are finding less and less of it each year. At least that’s the opinion of author and political philosopher J. Budziszewski, who has had a ring side seat to rising generations as a professor for thirty-four years at the University of Texas at Austin.

In a recent World Magazine interview, Budziszewski (pronounced Bud-a-Chev-ski) says college kids are running in to the “hedonistic paradox” much sooner than previous generations. Hedonistic paradox is the title for the law of diminishing returns as applied to pleasure. The professor explained, “If you pursue truth and friendship for their own sakes, you will enjoy pleasure. If you pursue pleasure for itself, pleasure recedes and you are likely to find pain. Eventually you burn out … so many of these young people have started in on hedonism so young, and thrown themselves into it so thoroughly, that the paradox kicks in very early.”*

Budziszewski’s words struck a nerve because I had recently finished a sermon series on the book of Ecclesiastes whose author, King Solomon, knew more about the pursuit of pleasure than anyone. Solomon went after pleasure with the intensity of Peyton Manning dismantling an NFL defense. He had more sex partners, more and bigger parties, more financial success, more fame, and more of everything else than most of us could imagine. His conclusion? It’s emptiness, the vain pursuit of a slippery breeze.

So again, how do you find happiness? How do you find happiness that won’t burn you out and leave you in pain? Here are a few of the answers I’ve found. It has less to do with how and much more to do with who.

The who begins with God. Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you.” C. S. Lewis said, “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.” I’ve found this to be true. When my relationship with God is first, every other pleasure is enhanced, like eating dark chocolate with black coffee, the combined experience is better than either one alone. Every good thing is a gift from my loving Father and I enjoy it more knowing it came from him. But when I put pleasure first even the good things are diminished.

Worship, the abandonment of all concerns and self-thoughts in praise and adoration, fills me with happiness and peace. Ditto prayer that has said all that needs be said and that does not end with “amen.”

The “who” continues with others: I’m never happier than when I’ve made my wife smile or laugh, than when I see her or my children flourishing in their gifts (she is always happy when she is creating beauty). Seeing others flourish, family, friends or fellow-believers fulfilling the calling and expressing the gifts the Creator gave makes me happy.

Communicating truth, whether in the pulpit, in a song, in this blog or face to face, telling the eternal truths of Scripture energizes me. I’m doing what my Father created me to do, and like Olympic runner Eric Liddel said of his gift of speed, “When I run, I feel his pleasure.”

Sex with the wife of my youth, sex without shame and without fear, absolutely certain that our intimacy and vulnerability with each other is protected by covenant loyalty and blessed with innocence by our Creator, makes me deliriously happy.

The where and what include motorcycle riding in the mountains on a spring day, especially with friends. I find myself singing thanksgiving songs as I throw it through the curves.

A good meal with good friends, helping others solve their problems mechanical or spiritual, these things give me joy.

All the above accompanied by beautiful music performed with excellence, or just music all by itself.

All of these things are gifts from the hand of a kind creator who gave us this promise:

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ John 7:37-38.

If you thirst for happiness, if you long for joy, go to him and drink and you will never thirst again.

*J. Budziszewski: Generation disordered. Q&A | The sexual revolution has left many college students with empty lives, but there is a longing for something more. By MARVIN OLASKY “Off the grid,” Sept. 5, 2015.