You Are A “TOP PICK”

I am writing this post on the morning of the first night of the 2017 NFL Draft. Ok, I admit it. I am a total “draft geek.” But in fairness, I live in Northeast Ohio and have been a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan. So to us, the NFL Draft every year, is our SuperBowl. I kid you not. In Cleveland, “draft fever” usually starts halfway through the previous season and continues to ramp up until Draft Day, when the excitement of the hopes of a brighter day for Browns fans and the stress level from the anticipation of another blown opportunity by the Browns decision-makers both reach the point of “boiling over.” This year you can add to the usual excitement the fact that the Browns have the #1 pick and that comes with the nervousness that they will screw it up yet again. In Cleveland, “hope springs eternal” because that is possibly how long it will take for the Browns to win a SuperBowl, if ever.

The NFL Draft, for those who do not follow such things, is not only a great example of how complicated it has become, these days, to field a winning professional sports team. But it also has become, for some, a total “sports season” unto itself. Think I’m kidding? There is baseball season, football season, basketball or hockey season and, yes, NFL Draft season. The NFL Network has a show, every year, called “Path To The Draft” and it runs for sixty days prior to the actual draft. And that is not the only programming sports channels like the NFL Network and ESPN crank out to keep NFL fans buzzing, even in the offseason.

The other part of this annual juggernaut, especially for the teams and the athletes themselves, is all the poking and prodding that takes place and how every measurable from these players is scrutinized almost down to the microscopic level. Height, weight, speed, jumping ability, wingspan, hand size (I am not making this stuff up), lung capacity, eyesight, hearing and who your mommy and daddy is. Then, it is all charted and documented and compared, in great detail, with the files of hundreds of other perspective players. And of course, these players get worked out over and over again. There is the Senior Bowl, the Scouting Combine, Pro Days and lastly, individual team workouts. I would be exhausted just from the travel required, leading up to the draft, let alone the workouts.

So as I sit here, chomping at the bit, with another nine hours to go until the first pick is made, my mind has wandered a bit…past the many looming decisions with real life-changing impact potential…such as “Garrett, Trubisky or trade down and gather more picks,” to wondering if there might be a spiritual illustration that can be drawn from all of this. I don’t know why my mind goes where it does. It just goes there and then I drag you folks along for the ride. Lucky you, right?

Jesus said the following words, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain..” [John 15:16]

Well, that is pretty interesting. Most of us, if we were asked, would probably say that we are the ones to whom God granted “free will” and that is up to us to come to a decision to follow or believe in God or not, not the other way around. But Jesus reminds us, here, that He has already chosen us from before the foundations of the Earth and our decision to turn from our own ways and follow Him is very much like getting an invitation to a wedding and then sending in your RSVP.  You have already been chosen. God is just waiting for your response. 

One more thing, before we move on, God is not choosing you or me so that we can produce some good things for a couple of years before the effects of age take over and we have “diminishing skills” (Cleveland fans know what I am alluding to, there). Jesus is saying that, yes, He wants us bear fruit, in other words produce good results. But He is also telling us that He wants us to produce the type of fruit that remains long-term, eternally speaking of course. What NFL team would not love to pick players that performed many great things for years to come? Unfortunately, that is extremely rare.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” [Ephesians 2:10]

The difference, of course, with the way God goes about choosing those who are His, is that there is no need for all of the poking and prodding, forty yard dash times, bench press or long jump results. He, Himself, uniquely created each and every one of us in His own image. He knows us far better than any set of athletic tests or medical measurables could possibly reveal. As it says above… “that we should walk in them” (good works). So the Apostle Paul is saying, that even before we began to walk spiritually (or physically for that matter), the invitation was already in your “inbox.” You had already been chosen.

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates (Israel), or the gods of the Amorites (Israel’s enemies), in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” [Joshua 24:15]

“If serving the Lord seems undesirable to you…” Whoa. If we truly slow down long enough to allow this statement to soak in, it is not just baffling , but downright scary. This is not like, “Oh, it’s OK honey. If you don’t like broccoli, you don’t have to eat it. No biggie.” The verse above was actually God, Himself, speaking prophetically through Joshua. Saying “No” to this invitation was, in essence, turning down God Almighty. Can you imagine standing before God’s throne, seeing Him face-to-face, and hearing Him say, “Hey, if you have no desire to play on My team, so be it. But I would not advise signing up for the opposition. Oh, by the way, not accepting My invitation IS signing up for the opposition. There is no neutral ground. Everyone is “in the game.” To not play for one team, means you choose to play for the other. 

Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods!” [Joshua 24:16]

It certainly didn’t take the Israelites long to figure out that saying “No” to God was probably a really bad idea. And it is not a good idea for you or I, either. So what does all of this mean? Is there some applicable correlation between the NFL Draft and our ability to connect with a living God, one who loves each and every one of us more than anyone on this planet ever will or ever could? Well, OK, here are a few things to think about:

1) Usually, to join an NFL team, you are either selected via the draft process, traded, or you sign as a free agent (in this scenario….the player chooses the team he wants to play for). God said that He has chosen us, we did not initially choose Him. We are basically “high draft picks” and since God does not play favorites, we are all #1 picks. SWEET!!!

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. [Isaiah 55:9] 

Hey, if God is willing to map out a better course for my life, I believe I would be foolish to say, “Nah, thanks God, I got this!!”

2) Again, if there is no neutral ground and “not playing the game” is not an option for any of us, if we are all going to stand before our Maker, one day, to give an account of what we did with our life, would you be comfortable saying, “Well, I tried my best to use the brain You gave me, Lord, and although I’m sure some of my decisions were not good ones, I hope the good out weighs the bad. Like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way. Doesn’t that count for something?” 

Or would you prefer to say, “Lord, I know I have sinned. I know I have screwed up, plenty of times. But based on the precious blood of Jesus Christ, I ask You to forgive me. I accept Your invitation of redemption, knowing I could never have earned it on my own. I am humbled and thankful that You loved me enough to choose to be with me, and me with You for all eternity.

I would just hope that all of us could realize one thing. Know that He has chosen you (whoever you are and no matter what you have done) and that in His eyes, you are without blemish, spot or wrinkle. You are perfect in His sight, all because of God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, and that will never change, no matter what.

You are a “Top Pick”….made by God, Himself, and that is so much better than being a free agent could ever be.

Thank You, Lord!!!

And….GO BROWNS!!!

BOB PALUMBO

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