great super bowl game last night. i really thought that peyton manning would carve up the new orleans secondary, but the saints obviously wanted it more. during the broadcast, though, i learned something that encouraged me.
before i go into that, i gotta’ tell you that i am sick to death of athletes (and actors and musicians, for that matter) that “give all the glory to god.” i’m (reasonably) sure they are sincere, but we (christians) present a distorted image of the kingdom when we communicate that god has helped us score or win or succeed. what about the guys on the other team who were praying that they would win? how did god choose which prayer to answer?
i’m pretty sure god doesn’t care who wins the super bowl.
but during last night’s game, much was made of colts kicker, matt stover, who is the oldest player to ever play in super bowl at age 42. about half way through the first quarter, stover kicked a 38-yard field goal to post the first points of the game and give indianapolis the lead. after he nailed that kick, i noticed stover pointing toward the sky with both index fingers and i thought, “must be honoring his dead father (or some such).” early in the fourth quarter, the game had gotten much more exciting and indy held a slim 17-16 lead. the colts drive stalled and stover trotted onto the field to attempt a 51-yard field goal. it barely missed left. the replay showed stover in slow motion as he once again pointed toward heaven (pictured at right). i thought to myself, “he thought he made it!” but announcer jim nantz commented that stover is a “very spiritual man” and makes that gesture whether he makes or misses.
this morning i googled matt stover and learned a little more about his story. he grew up in dallas in a greek orthodox home. stover says he knew about jesus…
However, He wasn’t in control of my life – I was. God was someone who I would go to at my own convenience – whenever I needed something. I was an “open/closed door policy”. I would open the door when I needed God for something, (like making a field goal or scoring high on a test) and close the door when I didn’t need Him or didn’t want Him to see what I was doing (especially if I was doing something bad).
of his previous life, stover says…
My dream of being able to play professional football came true, but it did not bring the inner fulfillment and peace of mind I was seeking. The world told me that I would find satisfaction and fulfillment though my success on the field, and that money, fame and material possessions would fill the sense of incompleteness and lack of peace I felt. But I found that neither a Super Bowl ring, nor a championship, nor being part of a team could satisfy me and fill the void in my life.
in 1992, stover’s wife signed them up for a family life conference where the speaker confronted stover with mark 8:35-36 and he had a life-changing encounter with god.
My life began to take on many new changes when I placed Christ in control. What I had sought through athletic accomplishments, I now found in a growing relationship with Christ. Having acheived the peace of mind I was looking for, I no longer had to please everybody else or be what everybody else wanted me to be. (from www.mattstoverfoundation.org)
the following is from an 2007 interview with matt stover in the baltimore examiner:
“There’s a very high pressure atmosphere [in the NFL],” Stover said. “Miss a few field goals and you can be cut tomorrow.” For many players, such anxiety is part of football. Coping with these realities is where Stover said his faith becomes a critical component of his individual identity.
“When I do it on my own, I’m not very successful. I haven’t played for Matt Stover in years. If you’re doing it for your own glorification, it ends up being empty. When you do it for Christ he puts you in a position to allow your testimony to reign for years to come.”
Challenges also come on a personal level. In the NFL locker room, tempers flare and tensions run high.
“The NFL will tear you apart,” Stover said. “I’m the first one to go to a person and say I’m sorry. I’ve asked guys to forgive me. I tell them not to validate Jesus and the reality of who he is on my life. But I strive to be like Jesus on a daily basis.”
And what of his legacy? For Baltimore fans who believe his hall of fame status is certain Stover thinks perspective is key.
“I want all those grown men who come up to me years later to say ‘I remember when you gave your testimony to the church’ or ‘I remember when you pointed up. Whether good or bad, you still pointed up.’ How I affect people eternally is what’s important.”
forgive me for being impressed. its just refreshing to see a professional athlete who glorifies god with his whole life, win or lose…succeed or fail. it’s like what paul wrote to the church at philippi, “i know what it is to be in need, and i know what it is to have plenty. i have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
i thnk matt stover learned the secret, too.