March Madness descends upon us and I, for one, am cheerier for it. Last night, my wife actually caught me humming “it’s the most wonderful time of the year…” as I looked at my bracket for the very first time. As my brother and I concluded a serious conversation, we finished with a jolly “at least the tournament starts on Thursday…or Tuesday or Wednesday, but for real on Thursday.” For all of you normal people who don’t understand what I’m talking about, it’s pretty much Christmas in March for the sports fan. Honestly, college basketball is not even my favorite sport; but this has always been my favorite time of the year.
Some of you must think I am a crazed fanatic, but I must tell you that my enthusiasm for sports has mellowed with age and children. I still enjoy sports of all kind, but my former self would question my present fandom. It’s been ages since I watched an entire game of anything and I often have to look up the record of my favorite team in a given sport. That might not sound odd to some of you, but this is coming from the guy that at 19 years dumb actually quit a job because he was scheduled to work when the Tar Heels made the final four. More confessions could be made, but suffice it to say that my view on sports has changed significantly over the years.
Many factors have probably played into that change, but none so significant as the realization as a young man that my passion for spiritual things paled in comparison to that of my fandom. Before you check out because you don’t care that much about sports, understand the real issue I wrestled with. It wasn’t an issue of sports as much as it was an issue of my passion for Christ. For me, this issue was raised in the context of sports, but it resulted from a question that is generic enough for everyone. The question is simply this: Is Jesus the person that excites me the most and is He my greatest source of joy?
When I realized that I couldn’t answer yes to that question, I had to intentionally deal with the heart problem this revealed. The reality is that this is a type of idolatry. Throughout the Bible we are told to avoid idolatry (Exodus 20:3; 1 John 5:21), but we often think of this command as pertaining to little wooden statues or the like. I think that Isaiah 42:8 sheds some light on idolatry as more than that. There God says, “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” Idolatry is about stealing God’s glory. It’s about putting something in His place. Nothing should have more value to you than Him. Nothing should be more important nor bring greater joy than Him. He should be your greatest influence, motivation and excitement. My prayer is that we can together with the Psalmist tell God that “earth has nothing I desire besides you.”