Devotional: November 20th
I love football. No, not soccer. And not rugby or that stuff they play with Australian rules that is a combination of rugby and football without the pads. I love football, American style. Good old rock 'em, sock 'em, smash mouth football. Especially when the games are as important as they are now where the National Football League is playing its Super Bowl tournament to find who will compete in Super Bowl XL. However, my enjoyment of the games this past weekend was marred. Let me explain.
Because of the physical aspect and timing of football there are abundant opportunities for teams to do things wrong which are called penalties. (in other words, cheat) Things like holding your opponent so they can't tackle your ball carrier, starting early before the ball has been snapped by the center to the quarterback or hitting a player after the play has ended are all things that result in penalties being called. To keep order during the game there is a team of officials stationed on the field with the players to make sure they play fairly and to assess penalties when they do not. But what happens when the officials do not play fairly?
This past weekend, the two best teams in each conference (two each from the National and American Football Conferences) hosted the teams who won the games from last week. In each situation the host team was favored and expected to win. When the games were actually played all but one visiting team "rose to the occasion" and played better football than the other team. What looked curious was the way the officials called the games and interpreted the penalties and possession situations. To many who watched the games, myself included, it appeared that the officials were trying to make sure that the home team won the contest. Phantom penalties, touchdowns that weren't and interceptions that were, were all called to the advantage of the home team.
In all but one instance they benefited the home team. The one instance was in the Carolina Panthers at the Chicago Bears game on Sunday. The Bears had the ball and were driving. They prepared to snap the ball and the play clock ran out by two extra ticks which meant delay of game on the Bears and a five yard penalty. But the officials never called the penalty. Justice prevailed as the Bears quarterback threw a pass to a receiver that was intercepted and stopped the drive. The Bears lost; at home; eliminated from the Super Bowl.
In the game of life we have an official who makes sure that the playing field is level for all who must play on it. "He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matthew 5:45 God wants to make sure that the path to Him does not favor one person over another. But once that path is enjoined, God richly blesses those who come to Him. But He still imposes "penalties" on those whom He loves. "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son He receives." Hebrews 12:5, 6 Go play the game. The Lord will keep you by His righteousness.
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