By Stephen Leonard
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
These were the first words of those athletes picked at the pinnacle, in the top ten, of the NFL draft. When interviewed following their selection, they first thanked God for their ability and prowess to be considered at the very top of their game. They become immediate multi-millionaires. They are the elite football players in this most high-powered American sports game. Do they really mean what they say? Is this more than just a popular cliche? Do they know what they are saying when they thank God above all else?
I rather think they have been raised by believing father and/or mother or grandparents of faith. Most often, it is a godly mother or grandmother, especially in a matriarchal community. They taught their son or grandson that they have been successful in athletic ability only because God has allowed it. God has kept them healthy, first of all, because an injured athlete is not chosen at the crown of the triangle. He is forgotten until he can remain healthy.
Second, they teach their gifted son that God is the one who gifted them. Without God in the mix, they would never have excelled the way they did. I believe this athlete believes this to be true. This is why he takes this moment to publicly thank God before a watching and listening world.
Whether they will remember God as they enjoy the “booty” of their good fortune is another matter. Some definitely will, because no one can snatch them out of my hand, Jesus says, when these young men truly are regenerated by my Holy Spirit. Others get caught up in the world of abundance, and the thought of God slides out of their worldview. Abundance takes over and leads them to debauchery.
To thank God and then forget Him is to make it worse than thanking Him in the first place. It would have been better not to have mentioned God at all than to thank Him and then forget Him. If you truly believe God is responsible for your good fortune, you will remember God as you enjoy your fortunes. You will constantly thank God as you enjoy His favor, and be sure to use His favor to glorify Him. Do not just buy expensive things without using your wealth to help others and to support true ministry that serves others. Honor God with your possessions.
I am sure some interviewers are uncomfortable with the references to God and want to get past them quickly. But the freedom of religion still hangs as a protected thread of the present communications empire. The time may soon come when such a statement will be squelched or edited out. Until then, athletes ought to shout God’s praises to the heavens. He alone is most responsible for their blessed prominence.
You may not have such notoriety. You will not have the “bully pulpit” of the widely watched NFL draft, but you have the attention of God “whose eyes move throughout the whole earth to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose lives are blameless towards Him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9) You need to constantly thank God for all of His blessings, but also thank Him for being present to uphold you in your misfortunes. The thanking of God needs to be confirmed by eyes that remain fixed on Him and look continually to the face of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Thanking God is your great necessity and your faithful service, primarily because it is true to what is. We live, and move, and have our being in Him. Your gratefulness should be as consistent as your breathing. Thank you, God, for loving me!
“Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul,
Thank you, Lord, for making me whole.
Thank you, Lord, for giving to me, Thy great salvation so rich and free.”
(From a hymn by Seth and Bessie Sykes, “Thank you, Lord,” 1940)