March Madness officially kicked off on March 13 and basketball fans set their brackets, donned their jerseys, and were ready to show allegiance to their team. I have to admit, I’m not a huge basketball fan and don’t pay close attention to what’s happening, but I do watch the social media response to some of the major college basketball upsets during the NCAA tournament. This tournament is pretty big with 68 teams all trying to win the national championship. As an observer from a distance, I recognize that many of my social media friends are very passionate about not only the sport, but also their college team. There is some serious heartbreak when their team loses and as a hockey fan I can only assume that these fans, like me, are on the edge of their seat screaming and cheering for their team’s success.

DSC_0116This month in our “Transforming Men” series I want to pose the question: “Are we as passionate about the Word of God as we are about our sport?” Over the past few weeks we travelled thousands of kilometres on the “Fan the Flame Tour” covering a total of 19 different locations. In those locations we had the privilege of having more than 100 men attend the training sessions. As we started these sessions, I asked each person attending to write in their book what they were most passionate about. I don’t know what the majority of people wrote, but as we unpacked the life of Solomon and the discussion of idols, we asked this question: “What are some common idols in our culture that can draw your heart away from God?” Many of the men on the tour responded with “sports teams.” Wow! Do sports teams have the power to steal our passion and desire for the things of God? Could this be a reason why men are not engaged in God’s Word? The simple answer is, “Absolutely!”

One thing was very clear as we went from location to location: the things that we’re most passionate about, we will commit our time to. We, men, have the ability to easily start conversations and keep conversations going that are about sports. We can rhyme off stats on our favourite players and teams, and can talk about the hope of the future for our sport.

DSC_0111On many occasions, I use the example when making tour videos, “Cheer like you are cheering for your sports team!” which returns the response, “But they’re not playing well this year.” Or, if I share that, “Sadly I’m a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs,” they respond with laughter. Why…why laughter? Probably because they have a long history of being known as a terrible team.

The reality is that many Christians probably cheer louder for their sports team than they do for the glory of God. As men it is so important that we evaluate our heart and make sure it’s aligned with God and His Word. The majority of fans who follow sports end their year in heartbreak. After all, only one team can win a championship.

We’re in a spiritual battle. There are two teams on the playing field. On one side is Jesus Christ with his army of believers and they’re in an all-out battle against Satan on the other side and those who follow him. When we look at this battle, we would think that it is this back-and-forth all-out war where the score changes as the culture changes. We might look at Canada today and say we’re losing the war. But the reality is God’s Word tells us the final score and Jesus wins.

DSC_0052The power of the inductive Bible study method is that it causes us to really slow down and interrogate the text. In our study of God’s Word we not only learn about God and His character, we see the Holy Spirit working in our lives and He shows us our true heart and passion. There is conviction in knowing that our hearts are divided by worldly pursuits and the things of God. Throughout the tour I heard many stories of how the passions of this world created apathy towards God and His Word.

Over the next few weeks, the NCAA tournament winds its way down to the sweet 16 teams and the eventual championship. Watch as these players give their all for the pursuit of that title, and as fans in the stands bite their nails in nervousness when it comes down to the final seconds for the game winning shot. Ask yourself, “What am I most passionate about?” Write out your list and see where the things of God line up.

markMark Sheldrake,
National Director of Precept Ministries Canada

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