(Editorâ€™s note: This is the final part in a six-part series called â€œFaith and the Football Field.â€)
In the past six weeks, weâ€™ve looked at several things that the football field teaches us about Christian life: practice, purpose, preparation, pain, and passion. This week, we come to a sixth and final lesson: priorities.
This is a difficult lesson I learned during my senior year of high school. As I prepared for my final football season, I intended to lay it all out for my senior year. I played tight end on the right side and spent all summer getting ready.
â€œThis is it. The last games Iâ€™ll ever play.â€
Yet as I started practicing with the team for a new season, something shifted in me.
In my senior year of high school, God began to get a hold of my life for the better. My youth pastor was pouring into my life. My Dad was giving me opportunities to serve in our church.
I had fallen in love with serving others and getting my feet wet in ministry, and my passion for football seemed to start falling apart. I realized that football had become an idol in my life.
As we drew closer to the new season, I began praying, and it became clear that my heart wasnâ€™t in football anymore. Football took priority over my relationship with God and it started gnawing at me. I felt God calling me to something different.
Youâ€™d think I would finish my senior year after spending 7-11th grade playing the game. But I couldnâ€™t. I wanted to spend more time with friends, in the word, and with God.
Trust me, I am not trying to sound â€œholier than thou.â€ You can be committed to Christ Jesus and still play football. Donâ€™t get me wrong! Yet for me, the love wasnâ€™t there.
Football was an idol, and I wanted to tear it down. And God spoke to me when I needed to make some decisions.
I called my coach one night on the phone, â€œIâ€™m in town. Can we meet up? I need to talk to you about something.â€
When I saw him, he said, â€œSo, Duncan, youâ€™re quitting the football team?â€
As I explained the reasons why, he said, â€œSay no more. We will miss you, and youâ€™ll always be a part of this team. But I understand that you have to get your priorities right.â€
Thereâ€™s that word: priorities.
As I explained to friends why I wasnâ€™t playing football, some just didnâ€™t understand. Some probably thought I was just nervous about my senior year.
However, my closest friends understood that God was doing work in my life, and I wanted to be sold out for Him.
Iâ€™m not saying we need to quit everything we commit to but there are certainly times to reevaluate our lives and think am I worshiping my job, my sport, my hobby, or something else other than God?
I missed football that year. I would go to the games and see someone else wearing my jersey number. It was hard but God used me during my senior year of high school for his glory and it was a launching pad for ministry in what God wanted to do in my life.
Did I miss it? Of course. Do I regret it? Absolutely not.
If you can play football, work your job, and do some hobby without it becoming an idol, then keep doing it, and do it for the glory of Godâ€¦but never let anything else become a priority in your life over your relationship with God.
Everything else will fade.
Caleb Duncan is the Director for the West Florida Baptist Association in Chipley and holds an M.A. in Ethics, Theology, and Culture from Southeastern Seminary. Email him at WfbaDom@outlook.com or follow his Twitter @calebtduncan.