Perhaps you read the 9/17/13 story in USA Today about Vikings defensive tackle Christian Ballard. He walked away from the NFL at the Vikings training camp. He left without mental, physical or legal cause. He said he did so that he “wasn’t living right.” Perhaps his best quote on the subject relates that
“Making that much money – that was fun. But money is still a material thing. You can always make money. You can’t make that time that you lose with your friends and your loved ones. Time is something you can never get back.”
Mr. Ballard has made a profound statement at the end of this quote, however that statement cuts both ways. Just as he cannot get back time with his family, he can also not get back very easily his status as a NFL defensive tackle. How do we know which things deserve attention in our life?
One of the major changes Ballard made as he stepped out of his NFL career was to begin attending church again after four years of absence. So, as I thought about his situation, I began to wonder how I might counsel him if it was my church he began attending. How would I help him get back to living right?
To begin, my questions for Ballard would seek to address the problem which presented itself first. Ballard’s departure from the NFL came about in large part due to dissatisfaction. Football and the money involved tempted him to live based upon a different standard. As a Christian, every time he gave in to those temptations it should have bothered him and grieved his spirit. He can thank God that the Holy Spirit convicted him at these occasions. As Christian stated in a later quote, “It made me selfish. It made me complacent. I just thought that I was better than everyone.” While some of that statement needs further attention, Ballard notices exactly what should become the starting place for biblical counsel.
1 Timothy 6:6 relates to Ballard that “there is great gain in godliness with contentment”. All of the money in the world will not bring the kind of gain that comes when we know that in every circumstance of life we have pleased God with our living. That means that in his new marriage, fathering, and even in his football career he live in such a way that his godliness brings satisfaction.To do so he must change who he plays for, namely for Jesus Christ. Perhaps as an easy growth assignment, Ballard might refrain from purchasing anything until he could prove to me it had a godly purpose.
Second then would be the attempt to address the root of Ballard’s problems. From the growth assignment, he will hopefully realize just how many ways he craves things that do not bring glory to God. Football and money tempted Ballard, and contrary to his comments they did not make him selfish, complacent, or prideful. If the NFL could do this, then no Christian could ever be in the NFL. By his own admission later in the article Ballard knows that other Christians have maintained a Christian witness while playing football. Thus, Ballard chose to act on the desires which already resided in his heart. Looking at Matthew 15:18 Ballard must see that, “out of the heart come evil thoughts”. Ballard’s heart already has a desire to be selfish, complacent, and prideful. In order for Ballard to start living right he must realize that he has the power in Christ to choose against temptations and his deceitful heart.
Let’s say he never plays in the NFL again. If Ballard becomes an announcer for ESPN, the same temptations come with the announcer’s microphone. Let’s say Ballard simply lives off of his financial interest in order to be a husband and a father. The same temptations come when a child rebels and defiantly screams at you. When a wife refuses you intimacy because she is tired and tells you as she drifts off to sleep the weekend’s plans without asking your opinion the temptations will come. While the temptations may look different and Ballard’s choices may take him down different paths, his inward desires will work their way out into his life unless he recognizes and addresses those desires.
So, how should Ballard start living right again? How should he seek to live a godly life with contentment? First he needs to genuinely surrender to God’s will and confess his desires for a life of selfishness, complacency, and pride. Then he needs to trust that he can live in a new and godly fashion. No one lived more godly than Jesus and he mentions repeatedly that even the “Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life for many.” (Mark 10:45) In order to grow Ballard should examine and identify the times when he has the greatest temptations towards selfishness, complacency, and pride. In those times he should find ways to humble himself and serve others. Ballard should consider ways to serve every person with whom he has a relationship. From his wife and child to his former team, coach, and colleagues Ballard could begin to live in godly ways by serving others. For that matter all of us wanting to “live right” can do the same.