As I was telling you a couple of weeks ago, I have discovered a principle in Scripture that answers the question that arises as to why I felt good when I gave up my addiction to TV media. After all, I enjoyed TV. It seems odd that I might feel good about getting rid of that part of my life. Well, the principle I mentioned is found in Ps. 119:44-45, among other places, but I did not discover it until after I gave up my addiction to Detroit Lions football (please hold the laughter – I was raised in Michigan after all).
I gave up watching football all-together after a Christmas dinner experience at a house I had just finished building about 1992. I was the last of four children and the only one not married at the time and my mother did not want me to be lonely on Christmas. So, she organized the family Christmas gathering to be at my new house. She was excited and wanted the best for me. Everyone came, and all was going well until a small glitch developed. Being a new house that was built without a contractor, some items were not quite finished. One of them was the fact that there was no TV antenna and so I had very poor TV reception. And it just so happened that the biggest game the Lions had played in some years was supposed to start not long after our Christmas dinner. All the men, including myself, were very distraught that the big game was not able to be viewed.
So, sure enough, someone had the big idea to go to someone else’s house to watch the game. I’m sorry to say that we left all the ladies and children and the nice gathering and went. Of course, the game went into overtime and the Lions lost (of course) and I felt terrible; terrible from the moment we left. I felt terrible for my mother whose plans were dashed. I felt terrible for my nephews whom I could have played with. I felt terrible for caving into the peer pressure from the other men there, all of whom were related to me. I just felt terrible. Well, the Spirit of God had been working on me for some time about my wasting time watching football.
Every Sunday was the same. It was fantastic weather out in the fall in Michigan and there was so much to do, but I was always stuck inside watching the Lions lose. Parenthetically, I’m glad they always did lose or I might not have given them up so easily. But this night I was feeling more intense emotion about the whole ordeal – especially when I realized that I could never get that time back again. It was gone and wasted. And what was worse, I knew I hurt my mother.
Well, as I said, the Holy Spirit was working on me and I believe to this moment that He caused a deer to jump in the road in front of my truck that night. At about midnight, about 3 miles from home on Christmas night, there I was, with my brother-in-law, Chuck, walking home in the winter cold – my truck steaming bloody radiator fluid on the side of the road. This incident served as the climax for me not only in terms of the day’s events, but in terms of my building cognizance of my sorry state as it related to this topic. It was as if God was saying, “I agree with your assessment of yourself.” What I needed that night more than any other thing was the opportunity to process what had happened and to make an honest assessment of my life in this realm. The fact that God was displeased, as I understood the circumstances to indicate, was added incentive to repent.
Chuck and I had a good chance to talk as we walked over those 3 miles and it was during this time that I made a commitment not to ever let something like that happen again – to the best of my ability. The next day I threw out my TV and I have never watched a complete game since, nor have I ever owned a TV since then either. The addiction was broken. But that is just it. I realized that night that it was in fact an addiction. I was not free while watching. I was bound by this crazy need to watch the Lions lose. It caused me anxiety when they were about to lose. I got angry when they lost. I got angry at the coach. I got angry at the owner. I complained about them losing. I planned my time around the games. Freedom was not where I was at.
What I discovered when it was all over is that it was only then – when it was over – that I was free. Now, ironically, and here is where the Biblical principle comes in, it was the act and fact of me placing and adhering to boundaries I had set around myself that brought me out of bondage and into freedom.
Psalm 119:44-45 states: “I will keep Thy law continually, Forever and ever. And I will walk at liberty [in freedom], for I seek Thy precepts”
Now, we tend to think of law as restrictive, and law is restrictive. However, it is restrictive not randomly, nor whimsically. It is not restrictive angrily or malevolently. But it is restrictive in a protective sense. What father does not restrict his son from certain death by placing barriers around him when it is appropriate? When we go on a roller-coaster, we place the lap bar over ourselves so we don’t fly out and splat on the ground. So, the restriction brings the freedom to live and breathe yet another day.
Just like other things in Scripture, in God’s economy, down is up and up is down (i.e., when you lose your life for His name sake, you gain it; when you want to be great, you serve and become like a slave, etc.). So too with boundaries. They don’t really bind in the negative sense, but rather they free.
Jesus said that the “. . . truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Psalm 11:142 says that, “Thy law is truth.”
So, if God’s law is truth, and truth sets us free, then law actually brings freedom, and not the bondage that so many claim. Now, many have mistaken Christian liberty to mean that God somehow gives His stamp of approval on things we, if we took other principles and texts at face value, ought not to do. This false liberty actually does make us feel “free,” but the freedom is not a fresh and clean freedom, but rather a freedom that gives us an attitude of license (1 Peter 2:16); it is a freedom from the difficult task of applying moral diligence to a given topic or action. This is the lazy man’s type of freedom. It is much easier to assume that a given thought or action falls under this faulty notion of “Christian liberty” than to do the difficult task of doing one’s homework, as it were, and come to an understanding that the said thought or action is unwise, unprofitable, or just plain wrong – or even evil.
Some might say that it is not a sin to watch a football game. True enough, it may not be in and of itself. But just like eating a candy bar is not sinful nor prohibited in Scripture, it is well noted that a candy bar is not a substantive nor especially helpful food (1 Cor. 6:12), and the problem arises when we become addicted to them, or end up choosing non-substantive, non-beneficial foods more often than the other ones because they are easier and/or tastier. As far as football is concerned, it may not be a sin to enjoy the game – after all, there are a lot of Christians who play the sport very well.
But I will say this; as far as my life goes (and I suspect for many others too), a football game played hundreds of miles away by people I don’t know or really care about is/was a completely irrelevant distraction which consumed my time – a lot of time.
In Ephesians 5:15-16, we are admonished to, “. . . be careful how we walk [live], not a unwise men, but as wise, making the most of [our] time, because the days are evil.” My productivity for Jesus Christ was way reduced because of my addiction. It was only a strict adherence, under the conviction and power of the Holy Spirit of God, to self imposed, but Biblically principled, boundaries which finally freed me. Since then, the things gained in my life during my time not watching football (or any TV for that matter), I have been blessed to be able to pass on to others. And so I would have to say that the freedom in time management alone has been an incalculable blessing for me and my family. In fact, I would assert that this freedom in my life has made an eternal impact! You can’t get that from football!
I hope this story is encouraging to you Phillip, and even perhaps useful in some way. Keep fighting the good fight. I appreciate you, your family, and the ministry God has called you to.