New Year’s Day brought us the final day of the NFL’s regular season—and for several teams, it seems that nothing has changed since the start of 2011. Yes, the Packers, Saints, Patriots, and Steelers are still on top of the league (nothing new there). But, at the other end of the standings, the Browns, Rams, and Dolphins are at or near the bottom of the league. To make things worse, they enter 2012 facing the same challenges as they did a year ago. For the 12 months of struggle and pain, little has changed for these cellar-dweller teams as they struggle to find the missing pieces of the puzzle that are necessary if they are to know success in the NFL. The Browns continue to struggle with changing quarterbacks and changing offensive systems, and the Dolphins (certainly) and Rams (most likely) will once again be searching for new head coaches this year. Though this marks the start of a new year, these teams continue to be dogged year after year by the same problems, failings, and shortcomings. Same old, same old.
The same problem can face us as followers of Christ. The writer to the Hebrew believers spoke of this, using the metaphor of sports to illustrate his point: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
“The sin which so easily ensnares us” speaks to the issue at hand. As we all enter the new year, each of us have areas in our lives where we repeatedly fall short, and where we struggle to find victory. Perhaps it is in the area of thought life, attitude, devotion, pride, or something else—but whatever it is, we face it on a regular basis. These areas of weakness (whatever they may be) are a continual reminder of our weakness and our fallenness. But they should also remind us that spiritual victory is not something we gain in our own strength. Only as we entrust ourselves to our Lord and His grace can we know victory in the areas of sin that easily ensnare us. In Him alone can we see a break in the old patterns of failure and vulnerability. As Paul said:
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).
In His love and strength, we can find new hope as we face old, stubborn challenges.
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain