Do the Fans Matter?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played their first game a few weeks ago.  As I was watching the game with my husband and my boys, I noticed that there were no fans.  I knew that this was already something that had been happening at other sporting events, but at the first Bucs game, it really stood out to me to not see fans in the stadium.  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell claimed that there is “no competitive advantage to a presence or absence of fans” however, with no fans in the stands in New Orleans, the teams were allowed to pump in up to 85 decibels of crowd noise.  While watching the players make passes and score touchdowns, and hearing the fake cheers, I started wondering, “Do the fans matter?”

When I was in 7th grade, we had just moved to Ocala, Florida.  I went to a school called Osceola Middle School.  Fairly early in the school year they had a field day; however, it was nothing like the LCS Elementary Olympics.  You didn’t get to choose what you competed in.  The morning of the Osceola Field Day, I was so excited, mostly to not be sitting in classes all day.  We lined up on the track and were given our assigned events.  I stood next to Wendi, my one friend that I had made so far, while we hoped to be in the same event. 

The coach finally yelled, “Jennifer Wise…200 meter.” 

“Okay, half a track.  I should be fine,” I thought to myself. 

When my time came to compete, I walked to my assigned spot and waited to see who my competition would be while the rest of the grade sat on the side of the track to watch the race.  And then I saw Thelma.

Thelma was about 5’10 and had legs that started at my head.  It was obvious that she was a runner and would have looked totally normal running in one of those bikini bottoms that real runners wore in the Olympics.  Thelma never game me eye contact, so I copied her stretching in my knock off KEDS and acted like I wasn’t terrified.  The coach blew his whistle and Thelma shot off like a gazelle.  I paced myself…which I don’t think you are supposed to do in a 200-meter “dash”.  Before I knew it, the entire 7th grade cheered for Thelma as she crossed the finish line and I rounded the corner at the 100-meter mark.  I sat back and relaxed at the awards ceremony, because I knew I wouldn’t be receiving anything.  You can imagine my shock when the coach said,

“The blue ribbon for the 200-meter dash goes to Jennifer Wise.”

The 7th graders were silent as I walked up to receive my ribbon.  Everyone had watched Thelma clearly smoke me in this race.  As I got to the front I whispered to the coach,

“I didn’t win.  Thelma beat me.” 

“Yes, but Thelma crossed over into your lane, so she was disqualified.”

“We had our own lanes?”  I thought to myself.

As you can imagine, it was humiliating for me, and Thelma was furious.  The entire 7th grade had clearly seen Thelma beat me, and I certainly didn’t deserve the blue ribbon.  There were fans…a crowd of confused 7th graders that clearly knew the truth.  They had watched me run and lose. 

As Christians, we too have “fans”, or a crowd watching.  We have friends, family, spouses and our children who are all watching and observing how we live our lives. 

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

What are my “fans” seeing as they watch my life?  Do they see me running with endurance?  Do they see me laying aside sins that weigh me down?  Do they see me, not running perfectly, but running to Jesus in my time of need?  Obviously my “fans” will not always see me running the race with perfection.  There will be times that I stumble.  There will be times that I mess up.  There will be times that I have to say, like Tom Brady did after his first Bucs game,

 “I obviously have got to do a lot better job.”

Of all the “fans” that I have watching my life, I am thankful for the one that matters most.  God is watching.  He sees me fail.  He knows my weaknesses.  He hears my desperate cries for help.  And I have to remind myself how He feels about me.

Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

This is the audience that I want to perform for!  Do the fans matter?  Absolutely!  We are surrounded by witnesses and we are making an impact in the lives of others, but we will mess up.  It is so comforting to know that my God is with me, He is mighty, He rejoices over me with gladness, He quiets me, He loves me, and He rejoices over me with not just singing, but LOUD singing! 

I would encourage you to run your race well…for yourself, for your “crowd of witnesses”, but ultimately for your God who rejoices over you even when you don’t run well.