The Speed of the Game (by Len Winneroski)


Well, it’s another big weekend of NFL football. Unfortunately the evil New England Patriots are making yet another run for a Super Bowl title and my Indianapolis Colts will be watching the games with the rest of us… on the couch. Football is a rough sport and teams often have to learn how to navigate the season without their star players due to injuries. The Indianapolis Colts have had a tough go of it the last two years because their most important player, Andrew Luck, has been anything but lucky and has been side-lined due to a lacerated kidney and a bum shoulder. Football is a rough sport but sometimes life can be tougher.

I’ve never played anything beyond backyard football. I have heard it said from those who have played the game at the highest level that there is a big difference between high school, college and NFL football. The speed of the game gets faster and faster because the players get better and better. Sometimes even exceptional college players have had a hard time adjusting to the speed of the game in the NFL and they struggle. This is especially true of the position of quarterback. One of my favorite ex-NFL players, Tim Tebow, was an amazing quarterback for the University of Florida. Tim won the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and he led his Gators to BCS National Championships in 2006 and 2008. This highly touted player was selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the Denver Broncos in 2010 and played two seasons for them before being traded to the New York Jets. Tim Tebow is one of the most authentic men of God that has ever played the game of football, and if anyone had God on his “side” it’s Tim, but he had a hard time competing at the highest level of the game. Tim was cut by the New York Jets after the 2012 season, and other than brief pre-season stints with the evil Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, he has had to place his dream of playing as a quarterback in the NFL on the shelf.

We may not all get the opportunity to play our favorite sport at the highest level, but we all experience “speed of the game” changes in our lives. When I graduated from high school and went to college, the speed of the game definitely changed. Going from living at home with my parents to living on my own in a new place with other students, who were all tasting freedom and independence for the first time, was a new challenge. Although I did not navigate through this time without error, thankfully I took my studies seriously and managed to survive. I can’t say the same for some of my college roommates who found the speed of the freedom game a little too fast and they had to drop out.

In 1988, I graduated from college, got married and entered the work force and the speed of the game changed again. It changed a lot!! When you get a “real” job you have to get up early every day and get to work on time. They take a lot of taxes out of your check (hopefully a little less this year) and you only get a week or two of vacation. Getting married is an even bigger adjustment. You can’t just do what you want to do when you want to do it anymore. I tried to do that in the first few years of my marriage and I almost got cut from the team. Thankfully God had mercy on me and my amazing wife hung in there until God changed my heart. I became a Christian in 1990 and the speed of the game changed again, although this time it slowed down.

When I was drafted by Jesus, drinking, fame and making lots of money just didn’t have the same appeal to me that it once had when I was on Team World. Don’t get me wrong, it still had appeal, but just not in the same way that it had before. When I started reading the Bible and learning what God actually thinks, and what Jesus taught, I began looking at the world and the people around me differently. I started caring less about being the star player in the game of life and I started caring more about helping other players join the team. Team Jesus.

I’ve been on Team Jesus for 27 years now. Jesus doesn’t cut people from His team. Sometimes He benches “players” when they get a little too big for their britches so that they can cool down and get some 1:1 attention, but Jesus would never cut anyone from His team like the teams of the world do. On Team World it’s always about performance and what’s in it for me. On Team Jesus, it’s all about Christ’s perfection and what’s in it for others.

God is in the business of developing hearts… hearts that beat more in rhythm with His heart. When our hearts start to beat in rhythm with God’s heart, the game slows down and it’s almost like you can begin to see things in slow motion. The Holy Spirit gives you a peace, perception and courage that is not rational. You start to get a glimpse of His hand moving in the events and people around you. When you screw up, which I do a lot, the Holy Spirit within you convicts you immediately and He encourages you to make things right.

I love the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector.

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

Have you ever wondered why Jesus picked Zacchaeus out from the crowd? I mean there were lots of other people in that crowd who also wanted to get a glimpse of Jesus. The Bible doesn’t say that Zacchaeus was yelling or trying to get Jesus attention, he was just short. He had to climb a tree to see what all the fuss was about. He was a tax collector and the people hated him. Nobody was going to move out of the way so that Zacchaeus could get a front row view, so he had to go to plan B. If anything, they probably blocked Zacchaeus and moved in front of him on purpose. That’s what sinners and legalistic saints do.

I think that Jesus realized that if Zacchaeus wanted to see Him so badly that he was willing to climb a tree in public to do so, something was going on in that little man’s heart. The “game” was truly in slow motion for Jesus as He walked the earth in dirty, calloused, human feet. As Jesus walked though Jericho He just looked “downfield” while his disciples “blocked,” to see who was “open.” Zacchaeus was open.

Who are the Zacchaeus’s around you right now who are curious about Jesus and open? Do you see them or is the game still too fast for you? Jesus said Team Jesus would do “greater things” than Him, because He is with the Father cheering us on (John 14:12). Do you believe that? Zacchaeus does.

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