Does God have a favorite NFL team? I’m guessing that God doesn’t root for the Chiefs or the 49ers. While he knows the outcome of the game, I don’t imagine God has a Brock Purdy jersey or paints his face with the Kansas City Chief’s colors. Suggesting that God doesn’t have a favorite football team, however, doesn’t mean God is disinterested in Super Bowl Sunday.
God has plans to which we are not always privy. In John’s gospel, Jesus’s disciples ask him about a man born blind. They want to know whether it was the man or his parents who sinned and caused him to be born without sight. Jesus responds by saying,
“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” - John 9:3
Jesus then heals the man who, despite being interrogated by the Pharisees, refuses to diminish Jesus (9:24-34).
As John 9 illustrates, we don’t always understand what God is doing or why he is doing it. The reality is that one team will win the Super Bowl, and the other will lose. But God’s team isn’t determined by the scoreboard. God’s team involves something far more profound than touchdowns and Super Bowl rings.
On a recent episode of Thinking Christian, I got to sit down with Dan Meers, the mascot for the Kansas City Chiefs (KC Wolf). I was reminded that those who are entertaining us on screen have lives beyond their public persona. In some ways, mascots offer an interesting picture of the way we often view celebrities more generally. While I would recognize the KC Wolf if he were walking down the street, I wouldn’t have known Dan Meers. By the same token, when Dan mentioned that he had also been Fred Bird for the St. Louis Cardinals, I knew I had seen him in action…I just didn’t know it was Dan.
Yet, Dan was the one who had a near-fatal accident during a test run of a stunt he had planned to perform at an upcoming Chiefs game. That wasn’t the KC Wolf. Dan was the one who lay in a hospital bed and struggled with what God was doing. Dan is the one who spreads the gospel message at various events and raises money for charity through the sale of his book Wolves Can’t Fly.
Dan’s story is powerful. The breakthroughs he has had in his faith in Jesus Christ are inspiring.
Whether the Chiefs win or lose, Dan is on God’s team. He is a man who people like Dan remind us why God isn’t uninterested in the affairs of humankind more generally and the Super Bowl in particular. He is interested because, in every moment of our lives (big or small) we have the opportunity to point to and magnify Him. For those who are members of the body of Christ, even our losses…the hard moments in life…allow us to glorify God.
As Christians, we don’t just have the pleasure of watching a contest between two great teams. We don’t just get to route for our favorite team or players. We also get to watch God at work. Perhaps if we look with eyes that see and listen with ears that hear, we will catch a glimpse of what God is doing. Yet, even if we don’t see what God is doing through the Super Bowl, we can trust that he is, in fact, doing something.
While listening to Dan Meers, I was struck by the way he described his personal struggle and change of perspective after his accident. He expressed his lack of understanding and frustration about what God was doing. He couldn’t see the purpose of the pain he was going through. Yet, he remained open to God and eventually came to recognize that his pain did indeed have a purpose,
Most of us won’t experience the sort of pain Dan did after his accident. We won’t be driven by that pain to ask God what is going on. Yet, just because we aren’t in pain doesn’t mean we can’t be curious. It doesn’t mean we can’t pay attention to God, so we are ready to see him act in the world.
There is certainly a way for the Super Bowl to become a distraction. We can become so focused on rooting for our favorite team, prepping (or ordering) food, and hoping for some interesting commercials that God fades so far into the background that we no longer notice him there. It’s possible but not inevitable.
Having spent some time talking with Dan Meers, I'm going to be on the lookout for God this year. I’m still going to watch the game, make some nachos, and root for my favorite team, but I’m also going to make an attempt to focus on God throughout the game. What will that look like? I’m not sure yet.
I am going to take some time to prepare this week. I’ll be spending the week reading, meditating on, and praying through some specific scriptures (i..e., Gen 50:15-21; Job 1:1-2:10; John 9 ). I don’t think there is anything “magical” about these passages. My reason for choosing them is that they each describe times when God’s purposes are not obvious to us.
As for game time, we will see. Right now, I’m just planning to keep in mind that the game isn’t the point. God isn’t rooting for the Chiefs or the Niners. He has a different team. It’s made up of people from both squads, the refs, and fans. His team is the mixed multitude of Jews and non-Jews united in Christ. They don’t win by scoring touchdowns but by pointing to and magnifying Jesus Christ. They win by looking beyond the gridiron to the eternal prize available to all those who follow Christ.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Ethan Miller / Staff
James Spencer earned his Ph.D. in Theological Studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He believes discipleship will open up opportunities beyond anything God’s people could accomplish through their own wisdom. James has published multiple works, including Christian Resistance: Learning to Defy the World and Follow Christ, Useful to God: Eight Lessons from the Life of D. L. Moody, Thinking Christian: Essays on Testimony, Accountability, and the Christian Mind, and Trajectories: A Gospel-Centered Introduction to Old Testament Theology to help believers look with eyes that see and listen with ears that hear as they consider, question, and revise assumptions hindering Christians from conforming more closely to the image of Christ. In addition to serving as the president of the D. L. Moody Center, James is the host of “Useful to God,” a weekly radio broadcast and podcast, a member of the faculty at Right On Mission, and an adjunct instructor with the Wheaton College Graduate School. Listen and subscribe to James's podcast, Thinking Christian, on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or LifeAudio!
This article originally appeared on Christianity.com. For more faith-building resources, visit Christianity.com.