This past weekend, during the NFL pro bowl, the University of Central Florida football team was recognized as college football national champions. Even though they did not participate in the playoff, their claim is based on an undefeated season and a win over Auburn in the Peach bowl. There are some that might agree, others that are amused, but most just dismiss their claim even though UCF, it seems, is completely serious about it. Admitting my bias as an Alabama fan, let’s examine how UCF became “national champions.” They played in what amounts to a junior varsity conference and then played in a meaningless bowl game against a three-loss team that obviously did not want to be there. To top it off their “championship” was recognized by an organization that has nothing to do with college football other than taking its best players every year. On the other hand, Alabama, while they stumbled during the year, fought and struggled against the top teams and completed a gutsy, overtime comeback against Georgia in the championship game. Alabama also dealt with an unprecedented number of injuries during the year, including losing almost their entire linebacker core. Even their ability to come back and stay focused after their loss to Auburn in the regular season was part of their championship mettle.
Too often Christians today want to be like UCF and claim the easy championship. They never suffer, they never sacrifice, they never take a stand, and they are only too happy to accept when the world confers upon them the title of “winner.” Thankfully, Jesus was not of that mind. In the wilderness after His baptism, Satan tempted Jesus with the kingdoms of the world, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus knew that the kingdoms of the world were His inheritance (Psalm 2) but He also knew the path that He must walk to receive them, and that path led to the cross. Satan was offering Jesus a short cut. He was saying, in effect, “You can have all the kingdoms of the world and you don’t have to die on the cross to get them!” But Jesus knew that the price for sin had to be paid. He knew that suffering had to come before glory and the cross had to come before the crown. Believers are to have the same attitude. Even though Jesus has defeated sin and death, we still live in a world that is corrupted by sin and hostile to the gospel. Seeking the easy road often means compromising with the world. That is why Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me.” When take on the hard tasks, when we sacrifice, when we take a stand, when we suffer for the sake of Jesus then we share in His suffering. The more we share in His suffering, the more we will share in His glory. As Paul states in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Let us not seek the easy road offered by the world that ends in disappointment, but the road of sacrifice and suffering that leads us to follow Jesus and ends in glory.
Adam Davis, Senior Pastor FBC Archer City, TX