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The hidden value of the NFL Combine

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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Defensive backs listen to instructions before they run a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)

The 2016 NFL Draft Combine wrapped up on Monday, meaning it’s now time for teams to attempt to discern the useful from the irrelevant after a week of drills, interviews, and medical exams. But while the prospective draft picks garner most of the week’s attention, often times the information of most immediate value comes from conversations with other coaches, GMs, and agents. As ESPN‘s Matthew Berry describes, “It’s the only time in the year that every person in the NFL is in the same place. General managers, coaches, front-office personnel, other team members . . . no fans, no pressures of the season, just a week in the middle of America.”

As a result, coaches and management will often talk candidly about their players in a way that doesn’t happen anywhere else. General managers can talk with other GMs to lay the groundwork for trades that cannot officially happen until March 9th. And, perhaps most importantly, they can do the same with any agents that they may bump into while walking around Indianapolis.

Teams value the chance to speak with agents since free agency starts on March 7th and official negotiations regarding any players that were not on your team the previous year are not supposed to happen before then. However, should hypothetical conversations about a team’s needs arise in the course of an otherwise legal conversation, no one is going to judge. After all, “mistakes” happen.

The ability to start laying the groundwork for potential deals and to gauge how the free agent market might develop is of more immediate value to many teams than how many times a prospect can lift 225 pounds or how fast they run their forty-yard dash. As the old cliché goes, knowledge is power, and there are few places where teams can gather more knowledge than at the Combine.

The same principle applies to the Christian life as well. Despite what some might profess, knowledge and faith are not at odds. As John A. Hutchinson reminds us, “Unthinking faith is a curious offering to be made to the creator of the human mind.”

God has gone to great lengths to allow us to know him better. He has left us a divinely inspired record of his involvement with humanity from Eden on, and even became human so that we might better comprehend who he is (2 Timothy 3:16, John 14:9). And he calls us to love him with our minds, renewing them each day so that we might understand him better (Luke 10:27, Romans 12:2).

However, to make that knowledge relevant, we must start with the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Apart from that reverence for God, our knowledge is of little use. It resembles having enormous wealth trapped in the bank because we can’t remember the pin number. God could use that knowledge to accomplish amazing things for his kingdom, but only if it resides in the minds of people with hearts dedicated to him.

The Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day knew more about the Lord than anyone else in their society but didn’t recognize God when he stood in their midst. Far too many Christians today share their problem. Despite going to church weekly, reading their Bibles, and answering every question in Sunday School, many seldom encounter the living God, who wants nothing more than to have a vibrant, personal relationship with them.

Friends, let us not be that kind of Christian today. God wants so much more for our lives than that. Do we?