Athletes Impacting the Kingdom

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Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set and example for the believers in life, speech, love, faith and purity.

            Our culture idolizes athletes.  If we look at the heroes in our culture today, most of them are athletes and the rest are movie stars.  When I was growing up, I had to heroes in my life.  The first one was Michael Jordan and the second was Frank Thomas.  As you could probably tell, I grew up on the south side of Chicago, and I love the Bulls and the Sox.  I was also a big Bo Jackson fan because of all the crazy things that he was doing on the baseball diamond and the football field.

            Not only did I idolize the current superstars, but I read everything that I possibly could about the superstars of the past.  I read about any athlete that I possibly could from Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle to Jesse Owens and Joe Namath.  I just loved reading about their lives and the impact that they had on the world around them.  It is just phenomenal.

            As athletes, you have the unique ability to make a huge impact on the world around you.  In the area where I grew up, we didn’t have a strong high school football following.  The school that I went to didn’t have a team, so the main sport there was basketball.  I remember growing up going to the basketball games with my father.  I remember one team in particular because they were the first good team that I could remember.  If you asked me, I could still remember some of the players on that team.  I was in awe of them, not only because they were good, but also because some of the guys on the team could dunk.  Seeing white guys who could dunk was inspiring to me.  It made me want to be able to dunk someday.  Unfortunately, I was not gifted with a great vertical and I have never been able to dunk, but I’m ok with that.

            The point is that even though I was only 6 or 7 years old when I was watching these guys play basketball, I still remember them.  I still know their names and I can picture them in my mind.  The same will be true of you.  The impact that you have on people just because you guys are athletes is unreal.  People know your name simply because you suit up in one of these jerseys and run around on a football field.  I’m not going to say that is a good thing or a bad thing, but it is what it is.  Because you wear this jersey, people look up to you.

            Because you wear this jersey, you have the ability to make a huge impact on other people.  I just moved to the area this summer, and I came to the first game of the year against Evans.  Since you were playing Evans, I was expecting a bunch of people to show up.  I wasn’t prepared to stand in line for a half hour waiting to buy a ticket.  A ton of people showed up for that game.  They showed up to watch you.

            People don’t just watch you on the football field.  People in your classes know that you play football, and they are watching you.  As you walk through the halls, people are watching you.  As you eat lunch, people are watching you.  As you are hanging out with your friends on the weekend, people are watching you.  People are always watching you.  The question is, what are they seeing?  What are you showing them?

            Other students at Greenbrier are looking at you and imitating your behavior.  Little kids in the stands are looking at you and wanting to be like you.  Even the older folks are watching you and how you act and react.  You are in the spotlight.

            In the Bible, 1  Timothy 4:12  says “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”  You guys are just teenagers, and most of the time, our culture doesn’t think much of teenagers.  Our culture doesn’t give teenagers a lot of credit.  We think that all teenagers are good for is for getting in trouble.  We think that all you do is goof off, disobey your parents, drink, smoke, and do drugs.  Our culture doesn’t really expect you guys to contribute much, except on the football field.  Here, the expectations are high, but in life, they are not.  What I want to encourage you guys to do is to defy expectations by taking what you learn here on the football field and taking it to the rest of your life.

            First of all, God wants you to be an example for others.  He has placed you in a position where you have the opportunity to make a big impact on other people’s lives.  So go out and do it.  By the way that you play this game, you can communicate a great deal to other people.  By your sportsmanship, you are saying a lot.  Go out and make a huge hit on some guy from the other team, but give him a hand and help him back up.  Respect the officials, even when they make a terrible call.  Listen to your coaches and do what your told.  People are watching, and that is a good thing because you can impact their lives for good just by how you play the game.

            But don’t let it stop here on the football field.  The season will be over at some point, but people will still be watching you.  Defy their expectations.  Set the example for them in how you live your life, just like it says in the Bible, and don’t let people look down on you because you are young.  You have a lot to contribute to our world, and as an athlete, people look up to you.  Give them something worthy to look up to, on and off the field.

            You all know Tim Tebow, right?  We all know that he won the Heisman last year as a sophomore, but do you guys know what he did this past summer?  He took tree mission trips where he helped perform minor surgery on people and preached the gospel in prisons.  How amazing is that?  This is a guy who uses his status as an athlete to impact the world around him.

            So the question remains, what type of an impact are you going to have on people?  Because of the position that you are in, you are making an impact whether you realize it or not and whether you like it or not.  I want to encourage you guys to make your impact a positive one.  Play football hard.  Apply what you learn here on the field to the rest of your life.  Make an impact that is positive and that encourages other people to do the same.

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