Sermon Illustration: For the Love of the Game

Recently I found myself watching an episode of ESPN‘s College Football Live. Yes, it was the first week of August. Yes, it was still 3 and a half weeks away from the start of the season. Yes, the episode had nothing to do with what was going on the field (because NOTHING was happening on the field yet!). The content centered around speculation about what “so and so” said or what might happen in the upcoming season. But I am from and live in the South. And if there is something on TV that has to do with College Football, I am going to watch.

At one point during the show, one the commentators were discussing recent comments from a quarterback out West. This led to a discussion about whether or not the quarterback was going to be any good and/or help the team succeed. One of the comments made struck me. Of this particular quarterback, one talking head said:

The coaches and staff are watching to see if he likes football for what it can do for him, or if he likes football for the love of the game.”


Go back and read that statement again. It is such an important statement that I began immediately doing what any college football fan would do: I prayed to God that He would send players to Auburn that played, not because of what football could do for them; but simply because they loved the game of football.

Okay . . . I am kidding. . . sort of.

Okay I am not kidding. Do it Lord!

Think about it, though. So many athletes don’t play the game because of the game. They play because of what the game can do for them. They play to advance their own career or name or value. Far too few college and professionals play because of their passion for the sport. I remember hearing Larry Bird say one time, “If I had a healthy back, I would play for free.” I believed him. He loved the game. It showed.

I have pondered that quote from the commentator on ESPN a lot. If I am honest, the quote too often describes my Christian walk. I am guilty – far more often than I care to admit – of using Christianity and Jesus and “church talk” and my religious heritage to advance Matt. I love Jesus so what He can do for me, rather than simply love being loved by and enjoying Jesus.

What would a commentator about your life say about you? If heaven were watching to see if you love Jesus so Jesus can advance your name, or if you just plain out love Jesus – what would heaven say?

There is a big difference. And it makes all the difference in the world.