Like most red-blooded American men, I enjoy watching the occasional professional sporting event. Over the years, my tastes have changed. My favorite sport when I was growing up was football. (Really, it was my second favorite but for the purposes of this article we’ll pretend that professional wrestling is not a sport.)
What I liked about football was the consistency and the ability to watch a team grow. Back in the days before free agency, each player would stay with their team for most of their career. You got to know the players, and even if your team wasn’t having a good season you knew that they would all be back to try again next year.
But football eventually lost me. The players were getting shuffled between teams every year, the game was broken into too many TV commercial breaks, and the action on the field seemed like it slowed to a crawl. So over time, I found myself watching fewer and fewer games, and eventually I quit watching even the Super Bowl.
Around that time I began watching hockey. I should tell you that watching a hockey game on TV is not nearly as good as seeing a hockey game in person (as opposed to football). The action is fast, the hits are hard, and the games, especially during the playoffs, are rather intense. I was hooked.
Learning the rules of hockey took some time though. Growing up in the south, ice hockey was not what I would call a popular sport. Everybody knew the rules of football (except the girls, of course), but nobody knew anything about hockey. I had to learn it by myself, and it was fairly complicated.
There were blue lines, a red line, faceoff circles… all kinds of confusing stuff. But the penalties were great. How can you not love a game with infractions called spearing, slashing, hooking, and high sticking? What I figured out was that the more hockey I watched, the better I understood what the rules were.
And that’s the point.
If I had watched one hockey game and walked away from it without ever seeing another one, my concept of hockey would be that it’s a confusing game where a bunch of guys skate around hitting each other. The rules and penalties would seem vague and indiscriminately applied. I would certainly have no appreciation for what I had seen.
And if I attended one church service, my concept of it would be that it’s a place where people sing a few songs, the preacher talks too long about things that aren’t relevant, somebody prays, and then we all go to lunch.
And if I read one verse, or chapter, or book of the Bible, my concept of it would be that it’s kind of confusing, it doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it uses a lot of big words that I don’t understand.
But the more I attended church, the better I understood the concepts of worship and fellowship. And the more I read my Bible, the better I understood the rules for this life, and the penalties that are involved, and what awaits the winner.
In hockey, the Stanley Cup is the prize awarded to the team that wins the playoffs. There is only one Stanley Cup, and the team keeps it until a new champion is crowned at the end of the next season. Each year the names of the players from the winning team are engraved on it. It is the ultimate prize in hockey.
I will never play hockey, but my name is engraved somewhere better. The Book of Life. The game’s not even over yet, and I’ve already won.
In the same way, the victor will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name before My Father and before His angels. Revelation 3:5