I do not follow the NFL, but I am aware of an interesting situation with the New York Jets, who are a part of that league. It has been all over the news. The Jets have fallen on hard times. They have not won a Super Bowl in over half a century. Evidently, New York fans have run low on patience.
Last year the leader of that team was quarterback Zach Wilson. I have no doubt that he tried his best to win. But he could not lead them to the football promised land. The fans placed on his shoulders the majority of the blame for another year without a championship. They demanded that the team owners acquire a better quarterback. In their minds, that was the missing link and the only thing preventing them from football heaven.
The owners responded. They brought in one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, a man by the name of Aaron Rodgers. The team paid an astronomical amount of money to acquire him from another team. The fans were ecstatic. Unlike Wilson, Rodgers had the experience and skill needed. The press confidently predicted that the York Jets would compete in the next Super Bowl.
It’s hard to feel sorry for an NFL player, but you have to feel a little sorry for Zach Wilson. Being a quarterback in the NFL takes a lot of work. It’s a pressured-packed job. I can’t imagine that anybody wanted the team to succeed more last year than he did. Now, the whole city in which he worked was glad he had been replaced. The people did not appreciate the time, effort, and even injuries he had endured to try to make their football dreams come true. He went from being the center of attention to walking the sidelines during the games. He would have to endure the fawning press coverage and applause that his replacement was going to receive. Daily, he would be reminded that the people he tried to please were glad he had been replaced by a better player. They had no need for him. I am not sure how I would handle something like that.
In the Jets’ first game of the season, the stadium was packed, and the game was broadcast across the nation. You could feel the excitement. My guess is that Zach Wilson was not feeling as excited as everybody else. Nobody cared that he was there. But things changed quickly.
Within the first few minutes, Aaron Rodgers suffered a season-ending injury. The thousands and thousands of fans were stunned. They saw their dreams crushed as Rodgers lay on the field. Wilson, who had been sitting on a bench on the sidelines, was called up by the coach to take the field and try to lead the team to victory.
I didn’t see it, but I’m guessing there were boos from the stands. Even if there weren’t, Wilson knew that the fans hated that he had come into the game. They wanted Rodgers, and had paid good money to come to the game. Now, they were forced to watch the guy they thought didn’t measure up. Wilson’s very presence was depressing to all the people watching.
Sometimes Christians can feel like Zach Wilson. We may not feel appreciated. We find ourselves on the sidelines, thinking that what we do is not good enough. Whatever we do, we look around and realize that there are others in the Church who are more qualified than we are. If we are called upon to do something, it is only because the preferred choice is not available.
There are some verses in the NT that reflect this attitude. In 1 Tim 4:12, Paul tells Timothy not to let anybody despise his youth. I take that to mean that at least some thought Timothy was not as qualified as others to serve the Body of Christ. To their minds, Timothy simply did not have the experience he needed. In 1 Cor 1:12, Paul writes about believers at Corinth having favorite teachers. They preferred some over others. Later, he points out that certain Christians would look at what others could contribute and conclude that they had no need of those contributions (1 Cor 12:2).
I don’t know how Zach responded. It would be very easy for him to be bitter and not put forth much effort to win. The same would be true for believers who feel that what they do is not important, won’t be appreciated, or could be done better by someone else. On the Christian playing field, that is the wrong attitude to have. The Lord puts us in the game to serve others, whatever our role may be. Ultimately, by doing so, we are serving Him (Col 3:24).
That is what gives our labor in the Body of Christ worth. Even if we are the backup quarterback, we can receive His applause. That is what makes our efforts worthwhile.