“Ability without honor is useless.” Cicero
My family probably can’t remember the last time that I kept the game on during a meal, but I was glued to the set for this year’s Rose Bowl game. Though I did mute the volume during our New Year’s Day dinner, I was very distracted. It was a nail biter and even made Rose Bowl history in that it was the first Rose Bowl to go into overtime and ultimately had a double overtime. Of course, the right team won – at least from my Georgia roots perspective, with the Dawgs defeating the Sooners 54-48.
This is a typical complaint from sports fans but I really felt that the ESPN analysts were very one sided and seemed to have some kind of bromance going with Sooner’s quarterback, Baker Mayfield. To be sure, the Georgia Bulldogs are not saints, but Baker Mayfield is an anti-hero. USA Today dubbed him the “Anti-Tim Tebow.” What a terrible reputation! Though he’s the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner, according to the mission statement, he shouldn’t be: “The Heisman Memorial Trophy annually recognizes the outstanding college football player whose performance best exhibits the pursuit of excellence with integrity…”
Integrity is not one of his character traits. Mayfield is known for being obnoxious and obscene. He’s a star fit for a TMZ episode. While a gifted athlete, he’s known for his arrogance and unsportsmanlike conduct. Next year he’s probably headed to the NFL. Unfortunately, in our sullied culture, he’ll fit right in with the likes of a Ben Roethlisberger and Adrian Peterson. Sadly, we’re numb to it and overlook it as long as you’re a star.
But as Christians, we can’t. Too often we forget something vital – you get what you honor. It’s deplorable that too often in the Church we honor and measure by the same wrong standards a godless world measures by. We value and are enamored by the same wrong things. And then, we wonder why we who are called to be transformed and difference makers don’t.
Years ago I observed this in the Christian school movement. Parents were urged, even guilt tripped, into pulling their children out of the “godless” public school so they could be taught biblical values BUT they weren’t.
You get what you honor. Most Christian schools honored the same things the public schools honored, athletics, appearance and academics. What you reward, you reap generationally. Like a lost world, they had little concern for the disenfranchised and often failed to honor those who loved the Lord.
As Christians, we’re to be a “Christian Counter-culture” (to quote John Stott). Our yardstick must be biblical and is distinctly different. Jesus modeled this for us. The twelve men that He chose to lead His church were a bunch of losers from the world’s perspective. The most gifted one was Judas, yet spiritually, he was a zero. How do we counteract this?
We honor true beauty. Proverbs 31:30 says, “beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” That fits with Isaiah’s prophetic words about the coming Savior, “He had no… beauty that we should desire Him” (53:2). There may be a time to commend beauty, like about a bride on her wedding day. Biblically, though what is truly beautiful is godliness and character. We’ve all met some beautiful very ugly individuals. In the world’s eyes, they were beautiful but their attitude and arrogance was detestable. What we must notice and praise is inner beauty.
We honor wisdom. One can be brilliant and a fool. Scripture repeatedly speaks of the value of wisdom – not just knowing it – but applying it to life. The book of Proverbs defines and describes wisdom in seeing and living life according to God’s perspective. We need to encourage and note those who live out God’s truth. Too often in the Church we’re content with merely knowing God’s truth. That’s not a biblical perspective. It’s not enough to have the right answers. We must live righteously.
We honor stewardship. We all know very talented individuals who never lived up to their ability. Perhaps they had athletic or musical ability, but peaked in high school or college. Their life is one that’s continually rear view mirror oriented, focused on the past, on what they used to be and do. God is the great “I am,” not “I was.” At the Bema, the commendation from King Jesus is not for ability but for faithfulness, “Well, done good and faithful servant.” God is more pleased with a C student who does the best that he/she can, than an A- student who sloughs and lives off their reputation rather than the faithful application of their abilities.
We honor those who are spiritually fruitful. When was the last time you praised someone for being kind or patient or even joyful? Our culture honors the tough and mean, not the loving or gracious. But what does it really take to blow your stack? Just a short fuse. Do you pray, think or talk about spiritual fruit? If it’s not even on our radar, it’s not going to be cultivated in our hearts or in those around us like our family or friends. We certainly think and talk about those who are spiritually fruitless – those who are cranky or impatient. Our focus should instead be on those who are living out the fruit of the Spirit.
We honor those who possess eternal riches. So what if someone has a huge house, terrific toys or a cool car. It’s just stuff that rusts and decays. The Apostle John said, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper…just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2). Our souls prosper as we make the changes that allow the love of God to flow in and out our lives back to God and to others! When you’re spiritually rich, you’re focused on glorifying God. You’re selfless and thinking about others and their needs. You’re motivated to care for others, knowing that as you seek to bless them, God will bless you. You’ll long for the love of God which you possess to be known and possessed by others.
I truly hope Baker Mayfield repents and lives for Jesus. Otherwise his life won’t even be a smudge on the pages of sports history. Our lives and the lives of those around us can count for eternity but we must be focused and live for the real world, for eternity.
Can we help you spiritually? Can we help you know Jesus better? Please check out more resources on our church's web page, Gracechurchwi.org. Or, call us at 262.763.3021. If you'd like to know more about how Jesus can change your life, I'd love to mail you a copy of how Jesus changed my life in "My Story." E-mail me at Carson@gracechurchwi.org to request a free copy. Please include your mailing address.