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College football’s glorious unpredictability

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Joel Hale #51 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the Ohio State Football Media Day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus, Ohio, August 16 2015 (Credit: Icon Sportswire/Jason Mowry)

The 2015 college football season kicks off Thursday night and it couldn’t come a moment too soon. Last season’s 4 team playoff was a huge success and its champion, Ohio State, goes into the season as the heavy favorite in virtually every ranking. As ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit recently pointed out, the Buckeyes are the first team in the history of the Associated Press Poll to enter the season as a unanimous number one pick. They are stacked on both sides of the ball with their biggest question being which of their potential Heisman caliber quarterbacks will start.
 
That said, it’s worth noting that in 4 of the last 7 years, the team that was ranked first in the AP poll at the start of the season finished outside the top 10 by the time the last game was played. While few are predicting that will happen to Ohio State, the beauty of college football is in its inherent unpredictability. I guess that makes sense given that such predictions are based on the dependability of teams comprised mostly of young men not even old enough to legally drink.
 
And while 4 out the 5 top ranked teams entering last season finished in the top 4, the last time that had occurred was in 1991 so to bet on it happening again would seem at least somewhat foolhardy. As the old saying goes, that’s why you play the game.
 
Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. One of the great things about sports is the fact that you can do all the research, analyze trends and probabilities, and seek the opinions of the most informed people out there but, at the end of the day, nothing matters beyond what takes place on the field. Each team is given a chance to prove that, at least for that day, they were better than their opponents.
 
Our work for God’s kingdom is similar. The Lord can be quite unpredictable when it comes to the people he chooses to call for specific tasks. Yet, as Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise…the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:27). If you’d lined up David and Saul and asked the ancient Israelites to choose who would be the best king, to a man they would have selected Saul. If you were guessing who God would choose to start his church and share his message of redemption to the world, Peter, John, and the other disciples would never have made the list.
 
You see, I think part of the reason that God chooses the foolish and weak things (or in our case, people) of this world to be his hands and feet is that they are the ones most likely to depend on him to do so. What seems unpredictable to us is, in fact, quite logical when you realize that even the most independently capable of people can’t even begin to approach the potential effectiveness of someone who is simply open to being empowered and used by the Lord.
 
So the next time God asks you to do something that seems well beyond your abilities, understand that you’re probably right but that your abilities aren’t the reason he asked. What God wants most is for you to be humble enough to obey his calling and act in his strength rather than your own. And, if you can do that, there is no limit to the impact you can have for his kingdom.