Faith, Family, Football - How To Balance Them All
Updated: Aug 28
Football used to be a HUGE part of my life. I wasn’t just a fan. I was a player, and I was pretty good. I was a coach and a trainer. I was fortunate to be able to work with some exceptional athletes for many years, at nearly every level of the game. As a fan, I was kind of crazy. Being so connected to the game, I would watch football with the mind of a coach or a trainer. My family (my wife especially) will tell you, my reactions to things were often over the top, as if I was personally invested into the game. I was kind of crazy actually. I’m sure some of you can relate…
Over the years, as the LORD pulled me deeper and deeper into ministry and Bible teaching, football has become less important to me. When I first got saved, the LORD made it pretty clear that football was an idol in my life that needed to be dealt with. I had to make some big-time changes, and pray a lot about my attitude. The problem was, in the early part of my ministry journey, football was a big part of serving the LORD. I was coaching, but learning how to communicate Biblical concepts on the field. I was counseling players all over. It was pretty cool. Still, my attitude about the game itself, was a struggle for me, and usually my family were the victims. I had no balance in my faith, with family and football at that time.
Now here’s the problem. I tried to walk away from football, but football didn’t really go anywhere. These days, it’s basically a year-round sport, so you hear about football stuff, everywhere, all the time! There’s always something to rope me back in. The temptation to make football an idol, where I’m more concerned with my team’s wins and losses, the things people are saying about the players I like, and so forth, EASILY fills my mind. It’s a simple way to get me fired up with bitterness, frustration, anger, and things that just aren’t helpful to anyone. That stuff is contagious in the household too...
It’s actually kind of pitiful. Pray for me.
But, even though it’s still a struggle to temper how much time and energy I put into something as worthless as a game, the LORD has taught me a few things over the years to help walk with balance. For any of you that struggle with this issue, whether it’s with football like me, or ANY other hobby or interest, where that particular thing takes up more time and energy than it should, in the wrong ways, here’s five helpful insights I’ve learned over the years…
#1 – Accept the things that you’re into, but not in an idolatrous sense
The issue isn’t our interests, unless we’re interested in some stuff that’s straight up sinful. If that’s the case, we need to stop right now, seek the LORD’s forgiveness, and repent! If our interests aren’t directly sinful though, it’s all about how serious we take this stuff. Does it dominate more time in my mind and schedule than the LORD? Does it keep you from your primary responsibilities as a man with your family? Does it affect the vibe of your household. Be honest with yourself in that assessment. If the scale is tipping to the wrong side, then flip it around and get the LORD back as the dominant focus and priority of life. A hobby is just a hobby, unless we make it an idol.
#2 – Learn to see the spiritual application in otherwise-meaningless factors
Don't get me wrong here. I am NOT suggesting that we over-spiritualize everything in life, especially to justify idolatry. Most of the time, our hobbies and interests take up time, but have no real spiritual value. Learn to see the value the LORD might be showing. Just because the joy we have in those things isn’t purely Biblical, doesn’t mean that there isn’t something Biblical to learn through those things. For example, I started to learn that there are A LOT of parallel principles in football and the Bible! In football, leverage is everything. The concept of leverage in football applies closely to the concept of humility in the scriptures. Studying the Word as often as I was being a Bible teacher, I started to see that, the sport I was into, was helpful to explain and illustrate complex Biblical concepts in a dialect I could understand. It was kind of like Jesus using commonly-known parables tied to farming life, so the people could understand. So, I started proactively looking for those connections, and the LORD started showing me more, BUT, it started with my focus on the Word first! It's been really helpful communicating some of these things to my son. My wife and daughter, not so much. Keep this in mind though...
You can’t make spiritual connections unless you’re connected to the Spirit in the Word!
#3 – Understand the critical component of prayer
Reading the Bible is good. Do that! At the same time though, it’s hard to see where the things of scripture directly connect to our daily lives. That doesn’t mean the LORD won’t speak to us through those things, but we need to learn to open up that channel of communication when we’re doing those things. The Bible says that we should “pray without ceasing.” If we want our time and effort to have any sort of spiritual value, asking the LORD to show us things in that time, is helpful. It’s not that the LORD is depending on our request, BUT, that sort of prayer, focuses the mind on the LORD, to where we may be more likely to see or hear something He’s been trying to reveal all along! It starts in the Word, but clarity can come in many places. Get your ears perked up to the LORD’s instruction, in prayer.
#4 – Review the tape
As I mentioned, it’s quite possible that the LORD has been trying to show us things through our hobbies and interests, for a while now. As you read the Word, looking to understand who the LORD is, knowing His character, nature, attributes, and learning the patterns of His work, look back on things you can remember to see if there is anything spiritually-noteworthy. Maybe something happened in the past, that you figured was random, but through the lens of scripture, turned out to be something direct from the LORD. We don’t want to live in the past, but it doesn’t hurt to go back and consider things we might have missed, as we learn new things in the Word, expecting responses to our prayer from the LORD.
#5 – Share your experience
Have you ever heard how some people learn more about something, when they’re put in a position where they have to teach about it? There’s something about the effort it takes to explain something to someone else, that can actually help us understand better. If you share how the LORD showed you something through one of your hobbies or interests, your effort to articulate that experience might actually open your eyes and ears to even MORE! This could be a way to engage your family in something spiritually fruitful, where otherwise, there was no spiritual value. If you share how the LORD is changing your attitude about something, so that it’s not an idol anymore, but now a helpful tool to knowing Him, that conversation might be encouraging to others, while hearing the sound of your own voice confirm the work of the LORD, might just encourage you too!