Last week the Clemson Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide in the national championship game for college football. One of the star players for Clemson said that God wanted them to beat Alabama. Did God want Clemson to beat Alabama? Did God want Alabama to lose?
How is it possible to know who the LORD was “pulling for” in the title tilt? I mean, unless you’re a hyper-Calvinist, it seems to be murky as to which sidelines owned God’s divine favor.
The entire argument is subjective, and the theology that upholds such speculation is damaging. It’s harmful to the fame of God as the unregenerate community scoffs at subjective theological emotionalism. If our unbelieving culture is going to trip over us, let the stumbling stone be a cross, not a football.
It’s also damaging to hurting individuals who always find themselves on the “Alabama bench,” staring at defeat. Recently, I was talking to a dear friend who has a life debilitating health problem. Bed-ridden, home-ridden, and pain-ridden pretty much sums up her life.
Her kind of pain and unmitigated suffering is hard for most of us to comprehend. It most certainly is hard for me to grasp. She has spent most of her adult life on the “Alabama bench,” watching the victors enjoy health, wealth, and happy endings.
Her battle is much tougher than mine. Each day she has to talk her soul into believing that God is love and He loves her. The battle is so fierce that unfounded silly subjective statements about God’s preference for football games toss her into battle with her soul. Again!
Loving losers too
Whenever a sport’s figure talks about how God wanted them to win, I instinctively think about the losers.
I know you love me and you love them too. I’m thankful for the opportunity to play in this game, and I rejoice in the good outcome for the other team. I know that only one team can win and I’m okay with us losing this one. Though it is hard, I accept it, and I rejoice in their victory.
Mature Football Loser
I doubt anyone from the Alabama team prayed that way. Imagine how hard it is to pray that way about something that is crucial. Perhaps you can examine yourself. How do you respond when you’re on the losing end of life? Here are a few hypothetical examples:
- Your marriage is horrible, and you battle despair on a daily basis. However, your fixation on God’s love for you releases you to rejoice at weddings while praying the new couple has a happily ever after experience.
- Your financial situation is abysmal. Every step you take forward lands you two steps farther behind. You know that God loves you, which enables you to rejoice when your pastor speaks about God’s financial favor on a fellow church member.
- You just received the news you feared the most; you have cancer. It’s inoperable. However, the love of God is so life-giving that you are at rest, even when you hear of others whose cancer miraculously disappears.
Perhaps you don’t struggle with God’s immeasurable love for you. Especially when life does not make sense. When the bottom falls out and there is no hope for recovery. If so, you’re one of the rare ones.
Jesus struggled with His death sentence. So did Job and many other people in the Bible who had problems juxtaposing the love of God with the problem of evil, especially when the evil knocked on their doors.
If you find yourself perpetually sitting on the Alabama sideline and you wonder if God loves you, here are a six things I want you to consider.
- Don’t connect God’s love (or favor) on your life with winning only. A “God loves winners only” mentality is a denial of the Gospel. The LORD’s favor comes to losers, not winners. Jesus came for the sick, broken, and disheartened.
- Don’t connect God’s love to the life you want the most. Just because you are not getting the life you want, it does not mean God doesn’t love you. The prosperity Gospel connects the love of God to the riches of people. That is not the Gospel.
- God was love before the fall of humanity, and He is love after the fall. Humanity’s fall did not determine or control God’s love. He is love whether you win or lose.
- The life you want the most comes in stages. The believer has a renewed soul but not a restored body. A regenerated soul does not mean your body (or your life) will become better and better. Saved people live in fallen bodies in a fallen world.
- Never stop praying for a “win” in life but guard your heart if you do not get what you want. When sloppy theological statements like what the Clemson football star made become the core of your theology, you will live in massive disappointment when “God wants you to lose.”
- Never forget the Gospel. When the Christians in Rome were not getting the life they wanted, Paul had one message for them. The Romans lined up thousands along their roads to crucify them. The Romans ripped apart family after family. It was savage death with no mercy. That was their Christian experience. Paul had one shot to encourage them. Here is what he said,
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:31-39 (ESV)
A note to winners
Did God want Clemson to win? I honestly don’t know God’s mind when it comes to football. What I do know is there are winners and losers in life. If you are a winner, I have one piece of advice for you: remember the losers. Whatever blessing you receive, it is because the LORD allowed it.
For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? – 1 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV)
Also published on Medium.