There’s a story up on Bleacher Report that’s an update piece on former Cleveland Browns running back, Peyton Hillis. Does his name sound familiar? For any NFL football fans, you might remember him as the breakout star of the 2010 season who landed the cover of the video game Madden NFL 2012.
That 2010 season was pretty much about it, as far as significant contributions to the NFL.
His next season got out-of-whack due to contract negotiations and injuries. From there, it was a downward spiral of ineffective play. His retirement from the game wasn’t newsworthy enough to makes any headlines. Now in 2015, he is coaching high school football in Arkansas.
Some may say he didn’t live up to expectations… that he was a failure and a disappointment. In statistical terms, perhaps. Personal terms, maybe, if football was all that was important to someone.
You see, Hillis takes a great perspective on his NFL career and how it ended. He still has some hard feelings on the lost opportunity that it was, but is there something more? Something better?
“I went through a couple of years there just mad at the world,” he said. “I put my faith in the world and the world let me down. And I should have known that. The world’s always going to let you down. Put your faith in God.”
Peyton gets it. The fact remains that there is no better judge of our success than God! What’s funny is about football, is that many players play past their prime. Hey, that’s still good money to be made! But what happens is, fans’ perception of players change. Brett Favre will go down as a legend in the game, but when he finally retired he was a punchline to many jokes (by his own doing).
Seeing what were once dominant, skilled all-stars turn into third stringers, or just simply shells of their former selves, is depressing and makes the fan forget about them from their prime.
In essence, glory is fleeting in this world.
A perpetual question that comes up every season is, “Does God really care about a stupid game like football?” I don’t know! But He does care about those playing it and what they do with it. If they’re not playing for His glory, they are failures for they seek only the fame and trappings of a successful football career.
They are successful if it can point to something (or better yet, someone) BIGGER than themselves!
To me, that is the mark for ministry as well. There are plenty of self-seeking pastors out there (just like in any line of work) that could use a look in the mirror. As someone who’s been in church ministry for 13 years, I can’t say I’ve always had pure intentions for everything I’ve done. It was never about using the ministry for profit more so than it was using ministry as a vehicle to subconsciously prop up and market myself in the world of “church”. This seems silly, but honestly, this is more pervasive than you may think.
Flip through any Christian magazine or website and you’ll see pastors advertised for this conference or that conference. Maybe a new book they’ve written or TV show via INSP, Daystar, or TBN. None of these things are bad at all necessarily, just in how they originate (their intentions) or just how they turn out (Heritage USA and Jim Bakker, for example).
How this all affects the ministry world is something worth noting. One could observe that the “celebrity pastor” culture is not much different than what we Christians loathe in Hollywood. (more on that another time, perhaps)
One thing I’ve learned about my time in church ministry over the years is that there’s a lot of wasted time and energy spent propping yourself up, instead of lifting Jesus up! It’s a time-tested distraction technique the enemy likes to use in the arena of spiritual warfare.
In what’s been a transitional summer for me and my family, I’ve been able to put things in perspective, much like Peyton Hillis has on his career. You see, his football career isn’t over (despite what others say), as it continues on with him coaching young men. In many measurable ways, that will be more profound than what he could have accomplished as a star running back in the NFL!
So what should we all be concerned with, ultimately? Jesus says it pretty well in Matthew 6…
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
That line, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” comes with a promise! If we seek Him first in all that we do, we will be taken care of. We won’t have to worry about that big contract we’re due. We won’t have to worry about being on a bigger platform. We are already blessed by being sons and daughters of the Most High! We’re given the gift of salvation through His grace alone. That is worthy of our praise! We shouldn’t desire anything less.
Let us take ownership of our identity in Christ as we accomplish great things for the Kingdom of God (and not the “Kingdom of Self”!). Stay humble and focused by keeping your eyes on Jesus.