By DANNY MINTON
I love football! It’s pretty obvious since I talk about it so often, using illustrations and stories. Growing up, we didn’t start football until the seventh grade, although we did do some practicing a year earlier. I was fortunate to be on a state championship team as a senior and attending several Dallas Cowboy games in the Cotton Bowl.
Football was a tough sport. We started in the summer with two-a-day workouts. Things were different back in the ’60s, and we only had one water break. I remember we had to bring our own Coke bottle that the manager would fill up and bring to the field when it was water break time. Throw in a couple of salt tablets, and we were good to go!
My senior year was rough on my body. It started during summer workouts with a severely sprained ankle. I was one of the starting tailbacks, so this put me a little behind, and I didn’t start until the second game of the season. On the second play I ran from scrimmage, I was tackled by a good sized linebacker who fell on me breaking my left collarbone. That put me out for another six weeks before I could return to the line-up, this time as an end on offense and defense. On the next to last game of the regular season, I suffered a hip pointer that kept me out of a game. The final injury came in our semi-finals matchup with Iowa Park when I broke my neck tackling an opposing runner and became temporarily paralyzed on the field.
With all of that, I’ve been asked several times over the years would I play football again. My answer is always the same, “You bet!” Why, after going through all that work, being injured multiple times with one almost maiming be for life, would I want to do it again? Well, as I started this out, “I love football.” I knew back then, going into it, that injuries happen. My parents knew it was a rough sport. I have two brothers with knee problems to show for it. However, all that didn’t matter, since I love the sport.
Jesus told those who followed him that they would face persecution. He told his disciples in John 15, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.” (NIV) Paul was stoned, flogged, beaten with rods and faced all kinds of dangers while spreading the word.
So, the question is, “Why did Paul and others continue to follow him, knowing how hard it would be?” The answer is, “They believed in him and loved him.” Ten of the original 12 would die a martyr’s death, serving Jesus to the end.
Christians all over the world are killed or imprisoned because of their following Jesus and his teachings. In this country, we may not face death, but we do face a growing amount of verbal degradation and insults. Jesus warned us this would happen in his sermon from the mountainside, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for, in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mt. 5:11,12)
What Christians face should come as no surprise. It’s hard being a Christian in a world that only wants to please itself. We face ridicule when we mention His name. We are called intolerant when we don’t agree with things the world believes. We are shunned as outsiders when we stand up for our beliefs. It’s going to happen, Jesus told us that over 2,000 years ago, nothing has changed.
So why do we continue to serve in the face of what is going on around us? The answer is simple, “We believe and love the Savior.” You see, when you love something or someone deeply, you keep going back to it. We may be injured and we may have to change some things in our life. We endure the insults, backbiting, and degrading remarks because we believe in the one who loved us first.
I can no longer play football! Most of us can’t do the things we did when we were much younger. Those days remain only memories of times long ago. However, we can still serve the Lord. It won’t be easy, but the rewards far outweigh the darts of Satan, the verbal abuse and snide remarks that the world throws at us.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ