Living the fantasy
For Labor Day weekend, I drove to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for an important event that has become an annual ritual. There, I assembled an astonishing roster of athletes to compete on my behalf for the next 17 weeks. Ray Rice and Ryan Grant fill my backfield. Roddy White, Mike Williams, and Hines Ward will be catching the ball.
Joe Flacco or Josh Freeman will anchor my offense. I have a team of multi-millionaires, MVPs and Super Bowl winners. I am their team manager and they are my players. There’s only one problem. It’s not real.
This is what we call “fantasy football.” For the entire pro season, I will follow the actions and achievements of these athletes and act as if like they’re playing for me. I will consider their success mine. When they fail, I will call it my loss. These football players don’t know me, but I will behave as if we have some kind of connection.
Eleven other “managers” have agreed to do the same. Together, we live a world of pretend.
This is fine for a meaningless sports game, but it’s dangerous when we approach Christianity in the same manner. Unfortunately, “fantasy faith” is even more popular than “fantasy football.” There are three important points about fantasy football that correlate to fantasy faith.
First, both are ultimately meaningless. Thinking and pretending are entirely different from doing. Jesus said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching.” Conversely, He said, “Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” (John 14:23-24, NIV) James put it this way: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22, NIV)
In fantasy football, I never step onto the field. I never suit up and battle another team. I don’t listen to the coaches and I don’t make any plays. Similarly, if we don’t put our faith into action, never engage in spiritual warfare, disregard the scriptures, and do nothing to advance the Gospel, we possess a fantasy faith. There is no real meaning in it and, in the end, will leave us unfulfilled and unhappy.
Second, fantasy success is worthless. Many fantasy football leagues award some kind of trophy to the winner. Guys brag about their achievements, even though we realize it’s shallow and empty. Again, this is suitable for a game, but when our religion earns us shallow and empty accolades, it’s beyond pointless; it’s an abomination.
Paul talks about works that are burned up in the end, as opposed to those that last forever. The only real success is that which is built on the firm foundation of Jesus Christ and reaps eternal rewards. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) Hearing and acting upon His words stores up “treasures in heaven,” which are the only real trophies. (Matthew 6:20) These rewards are real. All others are phony and useless.
Finally, a fantasy relationship is dangerous. If I was to walk up to any of the players on my “team” and act as if we knew each other, they’d think I was crazy. You have to actually know someone in order to hang out with them. And in a real relationship, both parties know each other.
Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10:14, NIV) He invites us to know him – not just as an historical character in a book or a sculptured figure hanging on the wall of a church, but more intimately than husband and wife. He came to earth to make Himself known to all of us, so that we don’t have to live with an imaginary relationship with God.
Do you find your faith to be meaningless? Are you tired of working to win hollow victories? Do you really know the person of Jesus Christ, and does He know you? If not, take Him up on His invitation:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” He said. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
This is the good news of the Gospel. It’s real. So don’t settle for living in a fantasy world. Join the team with an eternal purpose and a guaranteed victory in the end.
Randy Robison is the Senior Coordinator of Creative Media at LIFE Outreach International. His football-themed devotional series “Get in the Game” can be found at www.randyrobison.com.