Michigan wins NCAA championship: Life as a spectator sport

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Michigan wins the NCAA championship: Life as a spectator sport and the greatest need in America today

January 9, 2024 -

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates with the trophy after their win in the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game against Washington Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates with the trophy after their win in the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game against Washington Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh celebrates with the trophy after their win in the national championship NCAA College Football Playoff game against Washington Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The Michigan Wolverines defeated the Washington Huskies decisively last night to win this year’s NCAA football national championship. The annual title game has become the biggest sporting event outside the National Football League; since ninety-three of the top one hundred television broadcasts in 2023 were NFL games, we don’t have to wonder how popular football has become in American culture. Now that the NFL playoffs are ramping up, even more attention will be drawn to the game.

I was discussing the popularity of spectator sports with my son, Dr. Ryan Denison, and he noted, “The best part of sports is the chance to be irrationally hopeful with little consequence for doing so.” He’s right: not much that can happen to an athlete during a game is likely to happen to a fan watching the game. We get to “play” the game with little risk to ourselves.

If only life worked that way.

“We literally thought we were going to die”

Imagine you’re in an airplane that has just departed from Portland, Oregon. It is dark in the cabin as the plane’s lights have been dimmed for takeoff. Ten to fifteen minutes into your ascent, traveling roughly 440 miles an hour at sixteen thousand feet, a chunk of your plane blows out.

Gasps of shock fill the plane as a cellphone, a teddy bear, and a passenger’s shirt are sucked out of the hole. Oxygen masks drop from overhead compartments. “We literally thought we were going to die,” one of the passengers says later. The Alaska Airlines flight carrying 171 passengers and six crew members circles back to Portland where it lands safely.

The Boeing 737 Max 9 involved in Friday’s accident was essentially brand new. After the FAA grounded all such aircraft for inspections, hundreds of flights were canceled. United Airlines announced yesterday that it found loose bolts and other parts on the plug doors of at least five other 737 Max 9 aircraft. Alaska Airlines technicians also reported that “loose hardware was visible on some aircraft.”

If you have ever flown on an airplane, you might respond to this story with the realization, “That could have been me.” If you don’t, you should.

Hurtling through space at 67,000 mph

Life is not a spectator sport. Even those attending sporting events are not entirely safe: hundreds of people have been injured by foul balls at baseball games; NBA players have collided with spectators; fans have fought with fans at football and soccer games; hockey pucks have turned into sometimes-deadly projectiles.

We are all passengers on a tiny planet spinning at about a thousand miles per hour while hurtling at 67,000 miles per hour through space. We don’t feel this motion because it’s a constant, like traveling in a car at the same speed.

But when things slow down or speed up, we take notice.

Now is the time to prepare for then. To this end, I want to invite you to reflect on a text that has meant much to me this week. It begins: “Trust in the Lᴏʀᴅ, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness” (Psalm 37:3).

  • Trust in the Hebrew means to “rely on.”
  • Do good means to “produce that which is desirable.”
  • As you do your best while trusting God for his best, wherever you dwell in the land, you will befriend faithfulness—the Hebrew is translated literally, “nourish honesty and trustworthiness.”

Once you have made these commitments in your lifestyle, you can claim God’s promise: “Delight yourself in the Lᴏʀᴅ, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (v. 4).

  • Delight yourself means to “find pleasure and joy.”
  • When you do this in the Lᴏʀᴅ, in his presence while seeking and serving him, he will give you the desires of your heart.

This can mean that he will give you what your heart should desire, or that he will give you the desires you now feel in your heart.

Either way, you will experience God’s best by giving him your best. As a mantra classically attributed to St. Augustine advises, “Love God and do what you will.”

“Don’t cheat yourself out of spiritual victory”

The greatest need in America today is for America’s Christians to follow Jesus fully. If we do, our lives will be the change the culture needs to see, the light in the dark that leads to the Light of the world (Matthew 5:14; John 1:9; 8:12).

Billy Graham wrote: “If Christianity is important at all, then it is all-important. If it is anything at all, then it is everything. It is either the most vital thing in your life, or it isn’t worth bothering with.”

Consequently, he urged us: “Don’t give the lie to the Christian faith by professing Christ without possessing him. . . . Don’t hinder revival by your unbelief and prayerlessness. Don’t cheat yourself out of spiritual victory by allowing sin to imprison you. Seek God’s face and turn from your wicked ways. Then you will hear from heaven and true revival will begin—starting with you.”

He added: “The Church holds the key to revival. It is within our grasp. Will we rise to the challenge? Will we dare pay the price? The supply of heaven is adequate for the demands of our spiritually starved world. Will we offer that supply to the hungry masses? May the revival that the world needs begin in you—starting today.”

Why not you?

Why not now?

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