Romans 12: 3Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
I think most Americans would immediately understand what sport you were referring to if you said: “Friday Night Lights”. It is football, specifically high school football, and it is so ingrained in American culture that it even spawned a book, a movie, and an acclaimed TV series, with the same name. Growing up in Canada, where we might see 50 fans on the sidelines for most high school football games, it was a memorable experience for our family to cross the border into Michigan a few years ago to watch a Friday night game with my cousin’s family. Along with thousands of others, from very young to very old, we watched these young athletes perform under the bright lights on a Friday night, along with the finely tuned band who performed throughout the game and at halftime. I watched the young kids in attendance tossing footballs on the sidelines, and you just knew that they were dreaming of playing under those lights one day.
There is a great allure to being under the spotlight – a great desire to be special. My backyard growing up, quite literally, was the local high school. Every day during soccer season I would hop my fence to the field, and I would shag soccer balls for the high school team. I watched their games and I dreamed of one day being the star on the field. I’d sneak into the high school corridors and look up on the “Athletes of the Year” pictures and I’d say to myself: “one day that will be me”. About a decade later those dreams came true, but the desire for the spotlight doesn’t suddenly leave just because you achieved that goal.
Is it wrong to desire the spotlight? If God has gifted you with athletic talent and you pursue your craft with excellence, there is a very good chance you will be thrust into the spotlight, whether you like it or not. And if you are filled with a competitive spirit, there is no other place you’d rather be. I don’t believe it is a sin to have the desire to compete in that place, but beyond that it comes down to motive. I had a great deal of growing up to do in my teens, especially spiritually, because as humble as I may have appeared on the outside, there was a kid underneath desperate for acclaim. God had to bring me to a place where I recognized that any talent he had given me was not for myself, but rather for his glory. It is a very subtle, yet substantial shift in attitude. Sometimes God realizes we can’t get there until he takes it away from us.
In today’s scripture, Paul encourages others: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” (Romans 12:3). I love the phrase: “sober judgment”. In contrast we can have a drunk impression of ourselves – over-inflated, unrealistic, impaired. Paul isn’t asking us to think of ourselves as terrible or worthless, but rather objectively as God sees us. We are his prize, but all he has given us, is meant to bless him. We do this by honoring others, by lifting others up, by recognizing that all we have is from God. We need to hold on to our talents and abilities with an open hand rather than a clenched fist. In doing so we offer it all up to him and allow him to either use it to his glory or take it all away if he so wishes. That is an extremely difficult thing to pray to God, but if we can get to that place, where God’s spotlight is more important that man’s spotlight, we will have reached a critical point in our spiritual journey of maturity. In this place, God can truly do incredible things with us.