We now know the two teams that are going to be heading to the Super Bowl on February 3. They have been working for the entire season, hoping to put together enough victories to find their way to the ultimate stage, complete with a pop music halftime show and some wonderful commercials (hopefully).
Football is a sport that is based on preparation. Coaches develop pretty complicated playbooks, and it is the responsibility of each member of the team to know his job in every possible situation. Even when it seems like a particular player is irrelevant during a certain play, he has a job to do in that scheme. You could be the wide receiver in the left slot, and the play is to send the halfback to the right, but you still have a job to do. It may not be the most important job and not play, but it is an important job. After all, the entire purpose of running plays is to coordinate the members of the squad towards the predetermined end. Even the wide receiver who will never receive a pass to the left on a run to the right may need to pick up a blocking assignment. If it is a halfback draw, he might have to begin to run a route as a type of bluff before the quarterback hands off the ball.
The coordinated effort of 11 people on the field makes all the difference, and if they all don’t do their jobs, it is not going to be successful. There are no unimportant players on the field.
Therefore, they need to prepare ahead of time. There may be those times when the seemingly unimportant player actually has the most important job on the field. That slot receiver on the left might not have immediate interest in a halfback run to the right, but as the play develops and if the running back is able to proceed into the secondary, that wide receiver might be still moving down the field. He might be in a position to make a key block that turns a 10 yard run into a 25 yard run. Those types of things make a difference even if they do not seem to be immediately applicable.
How often do we feel like that slot receiver on a running play? We might not feel like our job matters very much. I’m not just talking about our day jobs. You may feel this way about your day job, but this is a much more wide-ranging conversation. It can be really simple. We can be talking about things like whether or not it makes a difference that I smile and say hi to the person I walk past on the street. We can be talking about things as major as whether or not I should bother trying to go back to a particular college because I feel like I am just a number there.
There were all kinds of times when we wonder if we are important. Does it really matter if I am nice to that cashier? She has probably seen hundreds of people today, and some of them were nice while others were not. Does it really matter how I treat her?
Does it really matter if I stay at this particular college? Even though I feel like God is called me here, I just don’t feel like I am important to the college or anyone else. Is it really the right spot for me?
I would like to suggest that there is a connection in between preparation and significance. An important part of any useful preparation is an understanding of the significance that a particular task possesses. It is important to be nice to people because it makes a difference to them. I should smile and say hi to that person because it may improve his or her day. That is significant. That means that I need to go into that store with the right attitude. I need to prepare ahead of time to make a difference in that person’s day.
On the bigger questions, I need to think about why perhaps God might have me in a certain place. I might be at a particular college for a particular reason. However, I need to make sure I have prepared myself to even think about such difficult things. Have I considered why I might be here and what significance I may have on campus? After all, even if I might not feel great about something at the time, maybe I am just upset. Maybe it is just an emotional time. Maybe I need to prepare to make this decision by preparing to think about how serious it really is. It is a heavy decision, and it is one that I should not make lightly. I need to think ahead of time and prepare so that I am ready to make a potentially life altering decision that no one would argue is insignificant.
When I think about this issue of significance, I can't help but think of the Old Testament. Why did God give us all the back story? My salvation is not based on doing the history of the Judges. It is a wonderful book of the Bible, but Judges tells me a lot more about the history of Israel and it tells me about Jesus Christ. We say we are Christians, so what does the background information of the Old Testament really do for us?
It provides us with that preparation. It helps us establish the type of world that Jesus Christ decided to enter. It points us towards the people group that God had His Son born into. When we read the Old Testament, we are prepared from Messiah. We see a world looking forward toward that Messiah and suffering the consequences of human sin. We see a conflict, and we desire a resolution. We are prepared for that resolution because of what we know.
Naturally that is not the only purpose of the Old Testament, but it is an important one. Much like John the Baptist was a forerunner to Jesus Christ, the Magi found Jesus because the scribes of Herod pointed to it Old Testament prophecy about Bethlehem. Even when the Old Testament is not prophetic or directly related to Jesus Christ, it establishes the groundwork.
Going further though, it is not just about laying the groundwork, but because of the obvious sinfulness of humanity and the hopelessness of the human condition, we see the significance of Jesus Christ all the more clearly. When set against the background of so much darkness, the light seems all the brighter. Why does the one star in the night sky seemed so bright? It is surrounded by black.
Jesus coming to earth would be significant anyway because He is the Son of God, but it seems all the more beautiful and important exactly because of the myriad of ways that we have failed to save ourselves. In fact, the more we try, the more we make our condition worse. Therefore, there may seem to be parts of the Old Testament that don’t seem to matter. Who really cares about some of the obscure characters we meet in one verse?
The fact of the matter is that every part of the Old Testament matters. Some parts don't seem to make a difference on the surface, but like that wide receiver making a block down field, they are there for a purpose. God was preparing a story, and He was preparing that story that ultimately pointed towards the most significant life to ever walk the face of our planet.
These are just a few examples, but I think you can kind of see my point here. Preparation points towards significance. Like the Super Bowl, these guys have been working all year for this game, and they all have an important job to play even if it doesn't always seem as important on the surface. We can never forget that in our individual lives either. I think that we can easily be tempted to feel like we don't matter or what we do makes no difference.
Don't fall into that trap. I'm not some kind of self-help guru, but there is one thing I do know. No one is an important. Therefore, we need to get down to business and do our own jobs. We need to do what we can with what we have to make a difference. We may not immediately see the impact of what we do, and we might never even see within our lifetimes. However, it is important to pursue our God given calling. If we do that, we will be where God wants us to be, and we will be doing what God wants us to do. There is no better place to be than right there. Not just better for us, but it will be better for all of those around us and, of course, the advancement of God's kingdom.