“First and Foremost”
Even if you’re not a football fan, it was kinda hard to miss the Big Game last Sunday! Super Bowl LII set all kinds of records. If you did watch the game, then you probably know... the Eagles’ and Patriots’ combined offences posted the most yards ever in a Super Bowl! Nick Foles was the first quarterback in the history of the Super Bowl to ever catch a touchdown pass. And it was the first Super Bowl title for Philadelphia, a team that was the underdog in all three of its post-season games.
Nick Foles has to be the most famous backup quarterback in the world today. Of course, Foles was called into action when the Eagles’ starting quarterback Carson Wentz went down with a knee injury earlier in the season... Foles then led his team to the championship, as the #2 guy, and was named the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl LII. His coach, Doug Pederson, was coaching high school football just nine years ago... and has now led his team to a Super Bowl Championship in only his second season as a head coach in the NFL. Pretty impressive stuff!
But for me, the most impressive part of the whole game WAS NOT during the game (and it certainly wasn’t the halftime show)... it was after the game, during the trophy presentation.
Coach Pederson was being interviewed, and said, “I can only give the praise to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving me this opportunity.” Tight end Zach Ertz, who made the game-winning catch, then told the audience, “Glory to God first and foremost.” Super Bowl MVP quarterback Nick Foles followed Ertz to the microphone and said “All Glory to God!”
Foles describes himself on Twitter as a “believer in Jesus Christ, husband, father, son, brother.” But first and foremost, he claims to be a follower of Christ. The fact is... Nick Foles is a seminary student who plans to become a pastor... and just happens to play football.
But an interesting fact about Nick Foles is... he almost quit playing football altogether? Two years ago, he contemplated retiring (at the ripe old age of 27) and walking away from the game. He had been cut from the St. Louis Rams... and he wasn’t quite sure what to do...
Foles said, “I kept reading Scripture, I kept praying, I kept asking God—and so many of us ask God for signs, we ask God, ‘Hey, please just put it on the wall, like, I want to know,’ but that’s not how it works. He’s not always going to do that. He was shaping me. He was bringing me down to my knees… At that moment, through that prayer, [God] said, ‘Hey, just take a step of faith. You’re either going to stop playing the game of football and you’re going to go on to a different area of your life... and I’m going to be with you... I’m going to be the most important thing in your life... or you’re going to step back into football and you’re going to continue to play and I’m going to be with you every step of the way... and you’re going to play to glorify me.”
Honoring God is Nick Foles’ goal and purpose... first and foremost.
The issue of athletes glorifying God at the end of victories is an ongoing discussion, I suppose. Some see it as an imposition of personal faith on the public. Others wonder if the players would’ve praised God if they’d lost.
To me, Coach Pederson and his players were simply following the biblical example: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name be the glory” (Psalm 115:1). God’s Word says, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise [to God]” (James 5:13). We are commanded to “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
We’re called to honor God, first and foremost!
The night before the Super Bowl, another pro-football player - J. J. Watt - was named the “Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year.” Watt, who plays for the Houston Texans, raised more than $37 million to help victims of Hurricane Harvey, this past year.
But the hurricane wasn’t the first time Watt used his platform to help others. In 2010, while he was still in college, he began the “Justin J. Watt Foundation” to help underprivileged kids. His foundation has raised more than $3.4 million.
Of course, none of us are pro-athletes with multi-million dollar contracts that help fund foundations... but then, we don’t have to be!
Just last Sunday, during our Souper Bowl offering, we collected nearly $500 to help feed the less privileged in our own backyard. Back during the Christmas season we helped 9-families (representing 19 people)... with groceries and gifts and other kinds of assistance. Every single day, elderly shut-ins receive a warm meal and a visit, because you and I generously give to the West Point Meals-on-Wheels program (some of you have even served a drivers!).
The point’s not how much we do... but, rather, why we do the things we do, in the first place! We help others, we minister to others... for the Glory of God! “First and foremost... we exist to glorify God!”
Who here can tell me who won the 2016 Super Bowl? Can you tell me? No cheating... no Googling... (It was the Denver Broncos - I had to look it up). However, every child and every hurricane victim helped by Watt's benevolence will always remember his compassion. And every family we were blessed to help and Christmas... and every person who’s helped by the Food Closet... or Meals-on-Wheels, because YOU were willing to help, will never forget either.
What matters most in life is not the success we achieve, or the awards we win... nor the notoriety we may (or may not) receive. What matters most is the way you & I use our gifts and blessings to glorify God and serve others in the name of Jesus Christ.
Friends, there’s no such thing as yesterday or tomorrow... there’s only today! We have only this day to do something that matters forever. Our lesson for today reminds us that life is a “mist” or a “vapor” - it’s here for a moment... then it’s over. Our efforts should be focused on making the most of the time, talent and gifts, we’ve been given, right now... to bring glory to God by “doing the good” we ought to do!
And God’s measure for “doing the good” we ought to do... is so simple: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength... and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30). To love God with all... all of our heart... is to honor him with every part of your life... in all you do... all you love... every day of our lives.
That’s why God’s Word tells us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart” (Proverbs 3:5). It’s why we are called to “guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23). It’s why Jesus assured us, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
The Eagles’ players and fans will never forget last Sunday’s Super Bowl victory. But one moment into eternity, such temporal success will matter only to the degree that it glorified our eternal Father...
That’s why it’s so important for us to live every moment in the will of God, and the grace of Christ. Because, only then can our lives have significance that transcends this world... Only then can Christ use us for his eternal glory and our eternal good.
Watchman Nee said, “Outside of Christ, I am only a sinner, but in Christ, I am saved. Outside of Christ, I am empty; in Christ, I am full. Outside of Christ, I am weak; in Christ, I am strong. Outside of Christ, I cannot; in Christ, I am more than able. Outside of Christ, I have been defeated; in Christ, I am already victorious. How meaningful are the words, 'In Christ.'”
“Glory to God, first and foremost!” Amen.