view as web pdf Great Celebrations

It was 7th November 2014 in Uyo, the State capital of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. There were gathered three Presidents of West Africa and one former head of State of Ghana for the opening ceremony of the new 30,000 seat Sanctity Stadium built by the state Governor (pictured right). As I sat to watch this programme on TV, many things came to mind. The first was to wonder if a good thing of this nature can be produced by a human government with such an earthly ceremony, then what a contrast it will be with the great wedding day, when Christ marries the saints - his bride, which by His grace will include you and me. I sat and meditated for over two and a half hours. I asked myself how well my mind was prepared for such a great occasion, one which will be incomparably higher. To attend such a heavenly marriage ceremony, we must strive to overcome our common enemy (that is sin). We must take the shield of faith wherewith we shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked (Ephesians 6:16). After this, we will be glad and rejoice: “Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the lamb” (Revelation 19:9).

Going back to the Stadium ceremony with the Presidents of Nigeria, Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire, the former Head of State of Ghana, Pele of Brazil, former players of the Nigerian national team, top Nigerian musicians, leaders of culture, dance and football academia: everything was bungled! Two Nigerians lost their lives, and many were taken to hospital as a result of a stampede. This also reminded me of Herod’s birthday when John the Baptist was killed (Mark 6:2127). Do we, as Christians, attend such ceremonies as a form of worship of sport as those in the world do? “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). “Shun profane and vain babblings for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Timothy 2:16). “Refuse profane and old wives’ fables and exercise thyself rather unto godliness, for bodily exercise profiteth little, but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:7-8). Let us always use our time and prepare for the coming heavenly wedding, not to worship sports. “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God and he shall go no more out, and I will write upon him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God and I will write upon him my new name” (Revelation 3:12).

Among the decoration of people and places as the crowd acknowledges the leading personalities by waving hands and banners, how does our spiritual banner look to those around us? Do people see Christ in us? Have we really decided to be a true disciple and follow the prince of peace? World leaders are helpless, but under the banner of the Lord Jesus Christ we will be at the actual marriage supper of the Lamb. Let us make sure that the Lord Jesus Christ is our banner for all to see. “I will sing of mercy and judgement, O Lord unto thee. I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within thy house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes. I hate the work of them that turn aside: it shall not cleave to me. A froward heart shall depart from me. I will not know a wicked person. Whoso privily slandereth his neighbour, him will I cut off. Him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me. He that walketh in a perfect way he shall serve me. He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house. He that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight. I will early destroy all the wicked of the land that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord” (Psalm 101).

We need to take a long term view in the things of this life, for it is not a matter of making progress like the athletes who compete for earthly glory. We must focus on the coming holy wedding ceremony, of which we will be an important part. Self-discipline, commitment and dedication are very important if we are to succeed and attend that royal marriage supper of the Lamb. If we admire earthly things and earthly leaders of every sort, ask yourself, how ready and how steady am I to meet the Lord?

The believer is to be humble in spirit (1 Peter 3:8). He is to be characterised by lowliness and meekness (Ephesians 4:2).

The idolatry of sport

To many young people as well as to professional players, sport has become an idol. Whatever we serve, even worship, whatever consumes our highest interest and devotion becomes our god or idol. The baptised Christian has turned to God from idols (1 Thessalonians 1:9) and is admonished to guard himself from any other idols (1 John 5:21). Although in context this may have reference to actual graven images of stone, wood and metal, the principle is the same (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5; Philippians 3:19). We must flee from all types of idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). We must have no-one and nothing (including sport), as the chief object of our attention, other than Christ himself. He must receive our highest commitment, greatest interest and total loyalty. Sport is undeniably the idol of both many young people and adults today. Listen to their conversation and you will inevitably hear sport discussed.

A spirit of pride

Our pioneer brethren put it in this way: human nature or sinful flesh has three principal channels through which it displays its waywardness against the law of God.

a) The lust of the flesh b) The lust of the eyes c) The pride of life

The common, if not the inevitable, result of winning in a sport is pride. Pride is inconsistent with the way of humility taught by Christ and his apostles. Paul admonishes the saints, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3). One sports writer states, “Unless a player has confidence in himself, who else will? A little cockiness will not hurt you.” Yes, cockiness will hurt you, for athletic cockiness is a form of sinful pride. The old covenant writings are as clear as the new covenant that pride in heart is an abomination to the Lord - he shall not be unpunished (Proverbs 16:5,18; 18:12).

Greed and exploitation

Sport is gambling as well as idolatry. The problem of greed is one which permeates the professional and collegiate athletic scene. We should be reminded that a covetous man is an idolater and has no inheritance in the kingdom of God (Ephesians 5:5). We are to put to death covetousness which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). Jesus said that it is impossible to serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:13).

On this subject, as a football coach myself, I am an insider - but ready to drop the job. So any brother or sister who can help me find work anywhere else, I am ready to relocate.

To the Pharisees, who were covetous, lovers of money, Jesus said: “God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). So nothing you give up for Christ in this life is worth comparison with what you will gain one day (Mark 10:29-30; Romans 8:17-18). Paul issued a solemn warning against greed (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Indeed, sports and money have led many into the path of ruin and destruction (2 Timothy 3:1-2).

Finally our lives are to be totally given over to the Lord Jesus. As Paul said: “For me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21) and he affirms that Christ is our life (Colossians 3:4). Christ is to be the centre of all we do and say. Our plans are to focus on him and the work of the kingdom.

Bro Gaius Uka Egwu (Ohafia, Nigeria)

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