I have a confession… I don’t like football. Whilst the rest of country are enjoying the crazy heights of the World Cup, I remain baffled and at worse, bored at the prospect of yet another football game. Now don’t me wrong I’ve read the statistics, I watched the news and whilst I completely appreciate the enormity of England reaching the semi-finals, I’m still left wondering…what is the point.
I had hoped that maybe it was just that I hadn’t yet fully experienced the excitement of a football match. So while millions of English fans sat glued to their televisions, desperately hoping England would finally win in penalties against Columbia, I chose to watch with them desperately hoping that something would change. A missing piece would at last fall into place and I too would finally experience the joys of being a football fan. But yet even as the last penalty hit the back of the net and my football loving friends erupted in overwhelming joy… I sat there feeling underwhelmed.
Yet despite my apathy there is a part of football which I find genuinely encouraging… the fans! Whether it is the brightly painted Brazilian supporters or our very own English fans full in song, their passion and unrelenting commitment remains an inspiration, even if I don’t fully understand the source of their enthusiasm.
Sometimes we can find the same confusion in our walk with Jesus. Maybe it’s a new teaching series, a new worship song or the choice of coffee on a Sunday morning, we too can feel confused and at times overwhelmed by the excitement of others around us. But is our level of enthusiasm really what sets us apart as “Jesus supporters” or are simply entering into a greater depth of relationship?
In a recent podcast* British writer and evangelist Jo Saxton compares the difference of being a fan and a follower. Whilst we can appear to be the biggest fan of our team, to wear the shirt and shout the loudest, are we really demonstrating the life of a follower? As we walk with Jesus he invites us to experience a life with him, not just to observe. As a follower we are fully committed regardless of the result.
“A follower goes to the mountain top but also to the depths of the valley”- Jo Saxton.
We go beyond just having an interest, a fascination with Jesus and his life and choose for more.
Whilst being a fan is not always a bad thing, Jesus invites us into more, unconditional commitment. Being a follower inspires us to do life with Jesus and to abandon our fan status, simply observing from a distance. To “be imitators of God, therefore as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5: 1-2).
So whilst I might not yet be signing up to the England Supporters Club, I will along with millions of others will choose to watch, hope and maybe even cheer for the success of our team in not only this tournament but for many more to come… “to press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3: 14).
*Lead Stories Podcast – Summer Sermon Series. Ep 5: Jesus Calls the Disciples by Jo Saxton.