Everybody recognizes John 3:16 at sporting events. It is so over-used it has become cliche. Another popular scripture to athletes is "I can do all things through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13) But where does that strength come from, really? EPO, as is allegedly the case for Lance Armstrong? Amphetamines in baseball? (Not only have offensive production numbers dropped since MLB started to get serious about steroids, but the ban on "uppers" has also had an effect. Look at the stats of several players and you can see measurable declines in production as the 162-game season wears on.) Or what about another baseball cliche, smokeless tobacco?
Nolan Ryan recently criticized Josh Hamilton's decision to quit using smokeless tobacco in the middle of the season. His statistics show an obvious difference between before and after. His decline was so great that the Texas Rangers are allowing Hamilton to file for free agency, indicating they'd be happier if he wasn't around to deal with. (Don't know josh Hamilton? Check out this post from a coupe of years ago, and this one more recently that foreshadowed this latest headline.)
Hamilton, a notorious addict, has been feeding his monster with nicotine. It even sounds better for you: "smokeless" tobacco; you know, because smoking is so bad for you smokeless is obviously better. Never mind that nicotine is more addictive than heroin, and smokeless tobacco- let's just be honest and call it chew- is a more direct ingestion of nicotine; it is absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the gums and doesn't bother messing around with filters on cigarettes.
The stats on the baseball field indicate that Hamilton wasn't getting his strength from God alone. And while it may be easy to cast a stone because he is a public figure, we are not immune. How many cups of coffee did you have this morning? (I had two) Aren't you convinced that you can't face the day without it? (True story: I was recently at a meeting where someone brought in a cup of coffee, a Red Bull and a Five Hour Energy. She returned from lunch with a cup of hot tea and another Red Bull. It was a long day, but not that long)
What about cigarettes? I can't count the number of times someone has justified smoking noting that it isn't explicitly prohibited in the Bible. And if I try and play the "your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit" card, I better also ask what your favorite comfort food is. I have two: donuts and hot wings. Neither are any good for me. And on my last business trip I explicitly stayed at a Holiday Inn Express just so I could have their cinnamon rolls.
We all have a crutch that we lean on for strength when we are weak. It may be a narcotic, it may be food, it may be shopping, it may be escaping into sports. What would happen if Jesus walked up to you today and kicked that crutch out from under you? I'd probably fall down, just like Josh Hamilton.