How God Destroyed my American Idol

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mattrose
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How God Destroyed my American Idol

Post by mattrose » Thu Feb 07, 2013 2:01 pm

I loved sports.

I loved playing sports. I loved watching sports. I loved the NFL, NHL, and NBA. I loved college basketball and football. Eventually I even started following Major League Baseball. I would watch other sports too when my favorites weren't on. Heck, I wouldn't even pass up a good curling match (match?) on the Canadian channel.

I took pride in knowing stuff about sports. I knew all the scores, schedules and statistics. I collected the cards (indeed, pretty much any time I got money, as a kid, I spent it on packs of cards). In my free time, if I wasn't playing some sport somewhere, I was probably inside watching one (or playing the video game or, later, doing fantasy sports).

I didn't realize how much sports were part of my identity. I certainly didn't realize my love for sports had become an idol in my life. But at a most basic level, an 'idol' is simply something (other than God) that you devote your life to and center your life around. Sports had become my center, my god.

But it's not any more... and I thought it would be interesting to reflect on how that changed... to write about how God helped me to stop idolizing sports.

First, looking back, I actually wonder if one of God's prevenient graces in my life was the fact that I wasn't very talented when it came to sports. I was a late developer (mostly because I didn't realize I had poor vision for quite a while, and then resisted wearing my glasses as long as possible). But even after I developed, I was never great at sports. I had my moments, but it was clear I was never going to be a star athlete. Perhaps God protected me from falling even more deeply into idolatry by not gifting me in these ways, but this is pure speculation.

Second, I came in contact with a greater god, the one true God. I was 17 when I really understood, for the first time, the bigness of God, what God had done for me, and what God wanted to do in my life. I don't think one even has the capacity to get rid of an 'idol,' until something greater comes along (even if it turns out to be just another idol), so my surrender to God was essential to overcoming idolatry. But beginning to truly worship God did not automatically destroy my idols any more than entering the Promised Land destroyed Canaanite high places for ancient Israel. Like I said, at that point, I didn't even know sports was an idol in my life.

Third, God put me in touch with a little article by Keith Drury titled "God #2" (link below). Drury asked me to think about how sports had set itself up, in American culture, as a competing God and how many Christian men were treating it as a god without realizing it. I'd like to say that Drury's questions were enough to convict me into repentance of my own idolatry. But the truth is, I was only impressed with his insight and saw the article as a helpful tool to use in order to confront other men with this issue (you know, the ones who REALLY struggled with sports idolatry).

Fourth, I was invited to be part of a short-term mission trip to China. What does that have to do with sports? Well, it was my internal reaction to the invitation that ultimately alerted me to the fact that sports was not just an idol, but MY idol. My first thought upon being invited was... what sporting events will I miss? At that point I realized that I dreaded missing March Madness... or even the NFL Draft... MORE than I delighted in serving the real God.

Breaking the sports IDOL took more than just awareness that sports was a god in my life. It took turning from sports and toward China. It also took time. In the years following that first trip to China, I found myself less and less dedicated to sports. It wasn't that I started hating sports. I started liking sports instead of loving sports. Sports became the thing that it is, and stopped being the center of my life and an object of devotion. I didn't get upset when I missed my favorite team play. I cared less whether they won or lost. I spent less time on fantasy sports and basically no money on memorabilia.

Demolished as an idol, sports has become a tool. I use sports as a point of connection for fellowship. Sports is a fun hobby. I enjoy sports for the lessons it can teach me about God and His kingdom (which are many). I like sports a lot. But I love God.

http://www.drurywriting.com/keith/sports.htm

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jarrod
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Re: How God Destroyed my American Idol

Post by jarrod » Thu Feb 07, 2013 3:16 pm

Matt, I really enjoyed reading your testimony. Thank you for sharing this part of your life. Praise the Lord :)

I have really struggled with constantly "staying on guard." In the past when the Lord has given me victory over an area that I struggled with, I (try to) completely erase any influence of that area from my life. I know that is impossible with certain things (food for example) so I am interested to hear about your ability to still be involved with sports even though it was an idol in your life.

Are you constantly on guard or do you try to retain an awareness of your struggle? I have found with myself, over time, my old ways creep in little by little and before I know it the thing I once had victory over entangles me again.

Hope that makes sense... thanks again! jarrod

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mattrose
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Re: How God Destroyed my American Idol

Post by mattrose » Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:36 pm

jarrod wrote: I am interested to hear about your ability to still be involved with sports even though it was an idol in your life.

Are you constantly on guard or do you try to retain an awareness of your struggle? I have found with myself, over time, my old ways creep in little by little and before I know it the thing I once had victory over entangles me again.

Hope that makes sense... thanks again! jarrod
I think that's an important area of inquiry (how do we keep the idols from popping back up so that we're not just playing an endless game of wack-a-mole?).

For myself, in the area of sports (I think different areas require different strategies), I sort of depend on what some might call 'gut' instinct, but what I would call the Holy Spirit's gentle reminders. I SENSE when I am moving back towards idolatry. For example, if I'm watching a game and the result is disappointing and I am grumpy about it to the point that it hinders my relationships (perhaps I'm grumpy to my wife or children)... then I know I need to repent of it again. Or, as another example, since my job (pastoral ministry) causes me to miss a lot of games... if I find myself angry at people when they tell me results of games that I had planned on watching on tape... I know that I need to repent of that too. Or if I'm playing a sport and start to get more competitive at the expense of having fun, I know there's an issue. I take seriously the verse that says that when we repent, God not only forgives but actively takes part in cleansing us from that unrighteousness. I find if I repent at HINTS of this idolatry, it never really turns into an idol again.

Just my 2 cents

steve7150
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Re: How God Destroyed my American Idol

Post by steve7150 » Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:39 pm

Third, God put me in touch with a little article by Keith Drury titled "God #2" (link below). Drury asked me to think about how sports had set itself up, in American culture, as a competing God and how many Christian men were treating it as a god without realizing it. I'd like to say that Drury's questions were enough to convict me into repentance of my own idolatry.







I can relate as i used to measure my self worth by my sports performances. I still have that tendency particularly now at singles tennis as team sports i'm less attracted to now then when i was younger.
Sports can be addictive like a million other things in this nutty culture we live in. I could make a list a mile long of things people are addicted to but give no thought to it.
It's true that only being close with God really can make us satisfied and content and give us that strength that we don't have without Him.
BTW i used to watch the NFL draft too, including the second day.

LeannaZ
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Re: How God Destroyed my American Idol

Post by LeannaZ » Fri Feb 08, 2013 4:09 pm

I appreciate your testimony. I have a similar struggle, but mine is music. I used to be totally obsessed with music--spending lots of money on music, listening to it constantly, going to concerts, etc. But since becoming a Christian, I realized that my interest in music was actually an unhealthy obsession, or as you say, an idol. I had to step away from it for while. Then, as I grew stronger in my faith, I found that I could, in small doses, start enjoying it again. But I have to be really careful because it's so easy to fall back into bad habits.
Anyway, I can really relate to what you wrote. Thanks for sharing.

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Homer
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Re: How God Destroyed my American Idol

Post by Homer » Sat Feb 09, 2013 6:34 pm

Fly fishing for trout, steelhead, and salmon was once a big problem for me. I was out on a river 70-80 times a year. People who fished with anything but flies were beneath me. And before I became a Christian (again), I thought about the "cost" of missing those Sunday morning football games. Think of it Matt, the VCR had not been invented then! Talk about sacrifice! :lol:

There is something else we need to be wary of: theological debates can become a sport, a competition of sorts that we feel compelled to "win", and little more. Francis Schaffer commented about that in one of his books.

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mattrose
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Re: How God Destroyed my American Idol

Post by mattrose » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:06 am

Yes, I was actually thinking of writing a couple more of these 'How God destroyed my Idol' pieces.

I could definitely do one on PATRIOTISM
And I could probably do one on the QUEST FOR CERTAINTY
But your suggestion INSISTENCE ON WINNING A DEBATE, while similar to the above, is a good one too

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darinhouston
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Re: How God Destroyed my American Idol

Post by darinhouston » Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:40 pm

I have never really been “into” sports. I’ve enjoyed participating in them, recreationally, and I occasionally enjoy a game or match and follow my alma mater as time allows. However, I can’t recall ever reading the entire sports page. So, it’s never really been an idol to me. Indeed, the role it plays in our society has always been frustrating to me, and especially within our churches and business community. I am a generally sociable person, but I have frequently found it difficult to “break into” social circles and casual conversations especially at church. So often, the discussions are surrounding sports. I find the discussions banal and in many ways resemble a foreign tongue. I’ve simply never been willing to devote the time to the language and factual learning curve (and its maintenance) required and without the day’s team lineups and week’s box scores and stats, a newcomer to a conversation will often have no audience.

As a result, I far too often find myself migrating to my wife’s side and engaging in more “meaningful” discussions with the ladies more frequently touching on topics such as children, family outings, vacations, family needs and health situations, and the like. The one resembles fellowship, the other seems to be robotic and wasteful dross.

Now for my criticisms and a challenge: :roll:

I believe if Karl Marx were alive today, he might think that SPORTS (and not religion) is the opiate of the masses. (and I think in many respects he'd be right) I struggle to avoid conspiracy theories, but whether the grand conspirator is Satan or some organization of empowered families, I suspect that professional, organized sports, and the media empires that are built around them have been designed to occupy our interests to avoid our seeing the more important things happening in the world around us -- to focus our attention on the banal from fear we’d notice the political change affecting us – to give voice and outlet especially to the men’s time and testosterone that instead would be spent providing services for others, defending their rights, rising up in revolt against injustice.

Yes, I believe SPORTS can be an idol (as can many other things I myself struggle against), but it goes much further than personal holiness and spiritual growth and I challenge all within range to meditate on this issue and to rise up and (dare I say) repent and redirect that machismo to more valiant and virtuous affairs.

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Jepne
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Re: How God Destroyed my American Idol

Post by Jepne » Mon Feb 18, 2013 6:43 pm

It is nice to drop in on this discussion - a very snowy day here and somewhat laid up with a new titanium hip. It is wonderful hearing your testimonies.

"I could definitely do one on PATRIOTISM" -
Oh my - I became very wrapped up in this since the first Gulf War(my middle age) as people in my church were in the service. I was brought up atheist and my father was very much into the news and reading commentary newsletters. It was a way of relating to him. But after this last election, the morning after, I began sobbing, and sobbing, and then did the only thing I know to do - began praying in tongues. While doing so, I felt a tangible moving of the Kingdom of God into my brain, displacing all my care about our nation and the things of this world. I was set free. I listen now and then to this and that, but it does not grip me.

Some of our friends here in Canada have their children 'in hockey' and some are dead set against doing so. For those who are in hockey, it is a community thing of visiting with neighbors - relationships. For them, it beats TV. Those who stay at home make efforts to be family, and their kids play hockey out in the yard in a homemade rink for a couple hours after school.

When I hear news of the guy who had the phantom girlfriend who 'died' - and people kneeling on the field to make obeisance to God for giving them some sort of victory, I have to scratch my head. But when I hear of people preparing for their big end of the season football parties, and the Fourth of July parades and picnics - gee, it would be nice to belong - to be a part - but there is nothing, absolutely nothing like a good prayer meeting or worship service where we hear words of love and life and get set free - and a potluck afterward - nothing at all can compare.
"Anything you think you know about God that you can't find in the person of Jesus, you have reason to question.” - anonymous

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RickC
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Re: How God Destroyed my American Idol

Post by RickC » Wed Feb 27, 2013 5:49 am

I don't really have much to comment about.
But I do like football!
Yet being a Browns fan, well, not much chance of making gods out of them, LOL

Matt,

I, somewhat ironically, found a vid related to your topic . . . .
(right after I read the OP).
I'm a frequent Active Topics reader, but haven't posted much lately.

The vid: What Gods Do We Believe in Now? - N/T. Wright and Gary Morson

Very interesting stuff (1 hour, 45 mins).

Summary: NTW says that, though we don't "name" modern-gods as gods: The worship of the god of war (Zeus), the god of materialism (Mammon) and the god of lust (Eros) . . . is very much alive.

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