Now that we are two weeks into the NFL season, it’s time for fan bases to forget that there are still fourteen games to play and start offering up definitive answers on the fate of their favorite teams. The NFC East offers us an interesting case study in just how easy it can be to rush to judgment after only a couple of games. For fans of the Cowboys, who have now lost their best receiver and their starting quarterback for a big part of the season, it’s natural to ask if they can hold on long enough for the cavalry’s return to make a difference. Even the hopeful remnant that still thinks they can hold on to win the division (guilty as charged…) can’t help but wonder whether it is logic or insanity driving that belief.
Giants fans have to be wondering if they’d be sitting pretty at 2-0 rather than 0-2 if their franchise player, Jason Pierre-Paul, hadn’t blown off a chunk of his hand in a Fourth of July accident. After their defense generated only two sacks through those fateful games, it’s easy to think that the man who led the team last season with 12.5 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss could have made a difference. Given the way they lost those games by coughing up the lead in the last minutes, many are likely wondering if their team is simply cursed.
Fans of the Philadelphia Eagles may be doing most of the cursing these days given their team’s 0-2 start. After their head coach, Chip Kelly, was given the authority to make personnel decisions this past off-season, many were curious to see how the new look team would perform. The preseason filled many with hope as the offense clicked and the team looked more than ready for the games to start counting. But after watching a porous offensive line make it all but impossible for Sam Bradford to throw down-field and their $40 million investment in DeMarco Murray yield the worst start to a season in 55 years (he’s currently gained 11 yards on 21 carries), many are ready to jump ship and take Kelly with them.
In the most unlikely of events, the Washington fan base is perhaps the most hopeful at the moment. After watching their team soundly beat a quality opponent in the St. Louis Rams to jump into second place in the division at 1-1, several pundits have begun wondering if their improved offensive line and underrated defense can propel them to their first division title since RG III’s rookie season in 2012. Of course, Griffin’s ignominious fall from grace was also the reason that most picked them to finish a distant fourth coming into the season. The man they traded three first round and two second round picks to acquire is currently their 3rd string quarterback and is unlikely to see the field this year. He has an injury clause in his contract that guarantees him $16 million for next season if he gets hurt and Washington cannot afford to risk paying that.
For some reason, sports fans are generally prone to overreaction. Even when what we see on the field matches up with our expectations there is a litany of factors that make it hard to make long-term assumptions from 120 minutes of football. While Dallas’s offense will likely struggle without Dez and Romo, they are getting key contributors back on an already improved defense that has the potential to mitigate much of that loss. While the Giants pass rush may not improve any time soon, their offense should as Victor Cruz works his way back and Odell Beckham Jr. continues to develop. It’s far too soon to give up on the Eagles, as much as it pains me to say that, and Chip Kelly will likely find a way to game-plan around their offensive line’s deficiencies. Lastly, Washington’s improvements may be legitimate, but their track record says that it would be wise to take last week’s success with a grain of salt. Perspective is important, and while recent events should not be ignored, we must also be careful to avoid overreacting.
We must do the same in our walk with God as well. Scripture is filled with people who waited on the Lord before choosing what to do and were blessed as a result. For example, when Hezekiah was king of Israel, the Assyrians came knocking on the gates of Jerusalem and demanded the city’s surrender. Their envoys described the nations they had conquered in an attempt to get Jerusalem to submit to Assyrian rule. In response, Hezekiah went first to the Lord in prayer and sought his guidance on what to do. God’s answer was to wait and allow him to deal with the Assyrians. While not necessarily a popular or easy decision, Jerusalem’s king obeyed and, “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp . . . .So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there” (2 Kings 19:35-36).
However, rushing to act can have the opposite effect. When Zedekiah ruled over the remnants of God’s people, the Lord told him through the prophet Jeremiah that he should submit to the Babylonians because the time of Israel’s punishment for its sins had arrived. But God promised that if they would obey, he would let them stay in their land and avoid the pain and death that was otherwise inevitable (Jeremiah 27). But rather than seek the Lord, Zedekiah listened to a false prophet who promised that God would save them. As a result, the citizens of Jerusalem starved while under siege for nearly two years before the city fell, and the last thing Zedekiah saw before the Babylonians took his eyes was the slaughter of his sons (2 Kings 25).
While these examples are rather extreme, they point to the clear truth that severe consequences can result from overreacting to a situation by making an impetuous decision rather than seeking the guidance and perspective of the Lord. We would do well to remember this truth the next time we are faced with a situation where our first impulse is to act rather than ask God what his will is.
A.J. Gordon once said “You can do more than pray after you have prayed; but you can never do more than pray until you have prayed.” That’s God’s truth. Is it yours?