In my sermon on Sunday, I added a bit of an ad lib in our second service.
When speaking about the false idols we pursue in society and their unforgiving nature, I brought up the subject of kids' sports. I know I am tackling one of the major false idols in our society right now. Kids' select baseball, volleyball, and basketball teams have exerted an amazing reach in the past decade or so. Where once Sunday mornings were reserved for worship, kids' athletics has moved in to offer its own form of worship.
And it is demonic.
Yes, I used that terminology, and perhaps I have made you stop reading right there. I offer no apologies, but I do ask for a moment to convince you of my argument.
Sunday morning, in my ad lib, I basically said the following:
These false idols are completely unforgiving. They will punish you and eat you alive. Think about kids' sports. What happens if a parent says, "I want to take my kids to church or to another activity." How does the coach respond? Is he or she forgiving? No. They basically say, "Well, your kid will lose his/her starting position and I don't know if he/she will get it back." There is punishment. Now, think about how I react when you tell me you are going to miss church. Do I punish you or make you feel badly? The false god is unforgiving.
I have heard such commentary about how missing a game or tournament is dealt with. The stories are all the same. This is not the exception; this is the rule.
Now, let me ask you: when actually thinking--thinking, mind you--about this particular methodology, what parent would expose his or her children to an activity that purposely and intentionally punishes a child for a decision a parent makes? What parent would involve his or her kid in an activity where someone holds a parent hostage--by threatening to emotionally hurt that parent's child by benching him/her--if that parent does not meet the coach's demands?
Don't respond for just a second. Read those questions again and think about them. For those parents who involve your kids in such activities, see the demands of sports in a different light. Perhaps you have never thought about what is happening in this fashion. Perhaps you just went along with the flow and thought you were doing the right thing. Maybe you have convinced yourself that you are doing the right thing. Maybe you have convinced yourself that by keeping your kids in these activities they will develop character and honesty and goodwill toward others. These are some of the promises being made to you.
But look at what these idols are demanding of you.
They demand your time.
They demand your money.
They demand your energy.
They demand your child.
You are sacrificing all of these things.
And what are you getting in return?
Are you finding yourself satisfied? Fulfilled? At peace?
Or are you finding yourself harried, frenzied, stretched thin with your emotion, time, and budget?
Most folks I run into fall squarely in that second category.
And it would be easy for me to tell you to just stop, but I know that you can't just stop. I know that you feel trapped. I know that you don't see any way out.
But there is grace. There is a real God who desperately is seeking to bring you satisfaction, fulfillment, and peace. He took on human flesh and lived among us and died for us so that we may have such things. He showed us a tremendous love--a love that cost Him His life: and He does not demand anything of us in return.
He does not demand your time.
He does not demand your energy.
He does not demand your money.
He does not demand your children.
He does not punish your children for something you do.
He loves you and then gives you the choice to return that love.
And He forgives you when you don't.
And when you are captured by this love--this grace. You find that peace and fulfillment you were seeking through all those other things.
And now, I won't lie, there is pain. There is pain when you begin rejecting all the false gods and idols. First, they raise a ruckus and throw all sorts of guilt your way. They try to bring you back to worship them, and their appeal is tremendous. (Yes, I speak from experience. Even as a pastor. My idols were just different.) They then try to scare the crap out of you and threaten you with all sorts of trial and tribulation. They use friends and family to draw you back. And it hurts. It hurts because you truly wonder if those moments of satisfaction and fulfillment will still be around.
The answer is: yes. They are. And they are richer, deeper, and much more fulfilling. For they come from an eternal source. The pain turns into the peace which passes all understanding.
I know that you may not believe this. I know many will probably say, "I can handle what is going on. I understand my strengths and limitations. These things don't own me. I am in control of my life, and I could stop anytime I want. My kids' sports don't control or own me." And you will continue to involve yourself and your kids in them.
My objective is not to dissuade you from involving your kids in sports. Mine will be involved in them as well--just like I was. My objective is to get you to think about whether or not those sports have become idols--false gods and whether or not they do indeed have a hold on you and your family. You will have to decide that for yourself.
Just remember, if you find yourself tired, burned out, hurting, and at the end of your rope--there is One to turn to who offers healing. He will not disappoint.