Power in the Right Hands: Even For How the Ball Bounces

By Tom Gilson Published on September 9, 2017

With this weekend’s kick-off of the new NFL season, we wanted to launch our own season: a “Season of Inspiration.” Since we’re in Texas, where football is such a mighty part of the fall landscape, we thought it’d be fun to reflect on God from the gridiron. So for the next 18 weekends we will feature an Inspiration piece sparked by football, however tangentially. Could be a game, a player, a memory, a news account, an athlete’s testimony, a sports movie, even a Scripture-quoting mascot. We leave that to the Stream writers who’ve joined the team and the Lord’s inspiration. 

We hope this series is a blessing. Kicking us off, Stream senior editor Tom Gilson.

Notre Dame was advancing the ball. They were ahead in the game, too, which wasn’t so unusual in the mid-1970s when I was a student at Michigan State. It looked like they were about to score again.

So I said to a friend sitting with me, “This would be a great time for them to fumble.”

And they did. They lost the ball and MSU recovered, halting Notre Dame’s drive.

I don’t remember if we scored or punted back to them. What I do recall is something you might think I’m making up, but it really happened. On their next drive, Notre Dame was moving rapidly down the field again, so I said again, “This would be another good time for them to fumble.”

And they did. MSU recovered. Just as if I’d called for it again.

I’ll admit: it kind of frightened me. I was almost relieved when it didn’t work the third time! Power over footballs: Is there any greater temptation? (Some might say that’s putting football on too high a plane. I’d agree. Except on Saturday afternoons.) Really, though, who could be trusted with that kind of power?

Power in the Wrong Hands Is Ugly

Of course I never thought for a moment it was real. I knew I’d just landed on a pair of uncommonly lucky coincidences. Still I couldn’t help playing with it in my head: Think of what I could do to Las Vegas! More ominously, Think of what they’d do if they found out it was me!

I was almost relieved when it didn’t work the third time!

But it got me thinking about how small and limited we humans are. How self-oriented, too. I never said, “This would be a good time for my own team to fumble.”

Power in the wrong hands is always ugly. I’ve asked myself more than once since that day, “Who could be trusted with power to control events that way — even something as insignificant as the way a football bounces?” (I don’t always consider it that insignificant when my team is playing Notre Dame, but I do try to remember it’s just a game.)

Who could be wise enough to know how a football should bounce, all things considered, in all the living rooms and hospital rooms where people were watching? Controlling football games could cause a fan to die in a crash on their way to a bowl game. But how could I know that?

Power in the Right Hands is Cause for Thanks

No one could know but God Himself. Only He has wisdom for all things: not just games, but entire nations. Only He loves everyone with the same self-sacrificial love.

God doesn’t play favorites. He roots for no team, but only for the work done by those who humbly pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.”

I’m sure that if I were in charge of footballs and voting booths and storm clouds and strategic decisions and flying bullets, I’d think I could finally set things right. I’d take care of all the problems in the world.

Then I’d discover what was true all along: I’m one of the problems myself. I’d be just as self-centered with that “world-correcting” work as I’d already proved myself with my football wishes.

Thank God He knows what to do. Thank God we can trust Him. Thank God He wouldn’t do what we’d do with His power.

Thank God the real power is in the right hands.

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