March, April and May Madness

“Sometimes bad guys make the best good guys.”  That’s the motto of a group of modern day Robin Hoods on the hit TV show “Leverage.”  After this past weekend I’ve come to a different conclusion: “Sometimes even good things serve as distractions to becoming a better person.”

 This past week I spent way too much time watching basketball and hockey games.  It didn’t help that Michigan and Michigan State both made their way to the finals of the Big Ten championship game.  I’m not a graduate of either school; but I have kids who are – so there’s a natural affinity to see both do well.  In the midst of all that, I watched the Red Wings pull out an overtime win.  And what’s on the horizon?  Three weeks of nearly non-stop NCAA basketball games, opening day of baseball season, and then the Stanley Cup playoffs.  [I’ve got mixed feelings about the Red Wings current mediocre season.  On the one hand I’d like to see them extend their record 22 straight years of making the playoffs.  On the other hand, if they don’t, it’s less likely I’ll watch very many more hockey games.]

It should be obvious – I really enjoy sports – nearly all sports.  If the U.S. had a cricket team, I’d probably take that in as well.  I’ve always thought of playing and spectator sports as a good clean way to spend my time.  But every now and then I realize the hours, even minutes we’re given on this earth are precious and limited.  It’s not that I wasted 24 hours a day, seven days last week.  I did spend a few hours babysitting my grandkids.  I did take Sandy out to dinner a couple times.  I did read my Bible each day and visited a few people in the hospital.  I even wrote a few pages for my upcoming book.  But there’s so much more to do with this precious time I’ve been allotted.

There’s going to be a time when each follower of Christ is going to face the Lord and be told how well they used the time, gifts and grace God gave them.  One scripture that I’m constantly reminded of is 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.  For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.  If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.  If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

The Bible indicates that every work a Christian does in this life will either be burned up when it enters God’s refining furnace, or it will survive and be purified – as molten gold or other precious metal.  Some believers think that only super-spiritual works fall into the gold, silver and precious stones category – that everyday activities are not worthy to even be considered.  I don’t believe that for one minute.   Neither did the apostle Paul.  Otherwise why would he advise his young pastor Timothy so vigorously about assuring that the people under his watch work hard to provide for the daily needs of their family members?  “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Every element of a Christian’s “work” is going to be tested by God.  That’s our everyday activity for supporting ourselves and our loved ones and those works which have a moral dimension.  God puts value on all our work.  He expects us to be diligent in our everyday activities; but, at the same time, we must never think that our job as a carpenter, teacher, electrician or soldier is so important and so time consuming that God can’t ask any more of us.  Even if our job is helping to heal people or resolve their emotional or familial problems, like a doctor, nurse or social worker, we don’t ever want to become deaf to what additional God may ask us to do for others.  We are called to invest our lives in the Kingdom of God and His priorities.

I’m convinced that so many “good” and “innocent” works we do will ultimately be burned up – because they’re wood, hay and straw – of little value and non-contributory toward our eternal treasure box.  And I think much of the time we spend watching sports and other forms of even innocent entertainment falls into this category.  I know this intellectually.  Now if I can just get this knowledge the eighteen inches from my brain to my heart.

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