I am a huge sports fan.  In my home growing up, we discussed, watched, armchair quarterbacked, and discussed stats from the week’s games.  

I also played soccer, basketball, baksetball, and softball.  In softball, my  rival in grade school was Jennifer Roberts. She and I were the tallest girls in our grade. We were both athletes and worked hard in school. Jennifer and I were friends and spent time together outside of school, but on the softball field, we played on opposite teams—and she was a slugger. She could make a softball wish it had never been machine-stitched. Everyone in the league knew how many homeruns she hit each week, and my number was always dwarfed by Jennifer’s skills with a bat. It was demoralizing.

Some days I prayed she would move away, join the circus, or get injured. I know, the author of a Bible study shouldn’t wish harm on another of Jesus’s creations, but I wasn’t an author then! The truth is, in my young heart of hearts, there were days that what I meant by “get injured” is run over by a Mack truck. I did not really wish her dead; I just got tired of losing to her—every time.

But my rivalry with Jennifer was also inspiring. Because of her skills, I practiced more and spent more time in the batting cages.  I spent WAY too much time, practicing in my backyard and pretending that there were fans in the stands that would “go wild” when I hit a homeroom.

The Reality of the Pandemic and sports

When the pandemic struck earlier this year, every aspect of our lives were affected.  Our schedules, handwashing practices, facial covering purchases, and toilet paper supplies were directly affected by COVID 19. 

Professional sports are affected.   For months, due to safety concerns, games were canceled all over the world.    This left fans of baseball, soccer, football, and basketball hungry for the sports seasons to commence, but there were logistical issues and controversy to overcome.  

One of the answers was to create virtual “fans” in the stands of some of the games.  Some used giant television screens filled with various groups of people.  Some created cardboard cutouts of former players, super fans, even celebrities.  Although there is no way to replicate the noise, excitement, and energy that stands of passionate sports fans can bring, the event promoters sure tried.

I wonder if it was harder or easier to play without an audience.  A good friend of mine says that the reason that professional athletes make the amounts of money they do is that they can perform at the level they do when others are watching.  

I can’t even type without making mistakes when someone is looking over my shoulder.  I cannot imagine the pressure that professional athletes face every week, but I should.  Although I do not face angry fans, ruthless competition, the smell of peanuts and popcorn, nor contract negotiations, I do have a fan base.  And so do you.

Hebrews 12:1-2 encourages us: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Where our real fan base lies…

You and I have a fan base – a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on as we pursue the things of God.   We have saints in the faith who have gone before us who are cheering us on (although we cannot hear it) to seek the face of God.

Are you feeling unsupported?  Unsuccessful?  Unloved?  Please know that when we fix our eyes on Jesus, He gives us peace, purpose, and people who support us.  When we run with perseverance the race marked out for us, He provides encouragement and a fan base so that we can keep going.

You may not be able to hear their cries of support, but that does not mean they are there.  You don’t need to pretend that you have support, His Word promises that we do.

Any how do we repay that support?  We support others.  Our kids.  Our spouse, Our neighbors.  Those struggling in the faith.  We cheer for them, pray for them, and support them.  Out of the support and comfort we receive, we should pour into others.

Are you in?  Can you think of someone who needs your encouragement right now?

And the crowd goes wild…

BIO

Amberly Neese is a popular speaker/teacher, comedian, author, and all-around encourager dedicated to helping you become the joyful person you were created to be.

She helps people like you experience the freedom found in meaningful relationships with God and others. Her bible study, “The Belonging Project: Finding Your Tribe and Learning to Thrive” was released in May 2020 by Abingdon Press.  Her newest study, “Finding Common Ground: Loving Others Despite our Differences” will be released in Spring 2021.

Amberly is a featured speaker for the Aspire Women’s Events and the main host and female comedian for Marriage Date Night, two popular Christian events that tour nationally.

She and her husband have two teenagers and live in Prescott, Arizona, where they enjoy the great outdoors, the Food Network, and all things Star Wars.

Author of “the Belonging Project: Finding Your Tribe and Learning to Thrive” (Abingdon Press, 2020)

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Amberly NeeseComedian- Author – Speakerwww.amberlyneese.com

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