People say you should be yourself… But they never considered me… I know you molded me different… You placed purpose on my shoulders… So now I come to you… Lord, give me the strength to finish this – my way.” – Cam Newton
Cam Newton’s “prayer” was transcribed by me from a YouTube site I found on Google or Bing, whichever browser came up. It was one of the very first commercials to appear immediately before the Super Bowl.
Wrapped in a towel, Newton was portrayed as earnest and sincere as he paraded around the locker room displaying his impressive physique. Obviously, humility is not his strong suit! The commercial reminded me more of the attitude of Frank Sinatra (I did it my way) than of Jesus, who taught his followers to pray: “Our Father, who art in heaven… Your will be done…”
Although I could not prove it, I suspect the stout dose of humility he experienced at the hands of the Broncos defense during Super Bowl L was somehow linked to this attitude.
Peyton Manning likewise alluded to God. Peyton played the part of a humble superstar faced with retirement. Age, injury (and probably upbringing) have taught their lessons: “I’ll take some time to reflect. I got a couple priorities first,” Manning said. “I’m going to go kiss my wife and kids. I want to hug my family. I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, Tracy, I promise you that. I’m going to take care of those things first. Definitely got to say a little prayer to thank the man upstairs for this great opportunity. I’m just very grateful.” (Quotation copied from NFL.com) On three different occasions – different interviews, Manning related these priorities: wife and kids, family, beer and thanks to the man upstairs.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing either one of these very talented athletes. I have great admiration for their skills and abilities. I have been a fan of Peyton Manning over many years, cheering for him in Tennessee, Indianapolis and now Denver. If he returns to the NFL (although I wish you wouldn’t), I will probably continue to root for him.
The point I wish to make is that each of these quarterbacks – both NFL icons represent large segments of society and reflect prevalent yet differing defective views of God. Newton, 26 years of age, is the hero of the new, younger generation, while Manning, almost 40, the champion of the old guard. Although certainly not exclusive of ages of those they represent, each demonstrates a faulty but common view of God.
On the one hand, God can be summoned to assist – the arrogant. He is regarded like a lucky charm to be beckoned at will. He is expected to immediately respond to one’s requests or demands and be glad that he is remembered. On the other hand, “the man upstairs” takes his rightful place behind family, friends, and beer. He may be recognized as a source of blessing, but is relegated to a lower place of priority. One is not necessarily worse than the other – both are erroneous.
So here’s the problem. If I can’t find out who God is in my culture and through my heroes, where do I turn? The best place in the Bible. Although it is possible to learn some things about God from “nature” (better God’s creation) God tells us about himself more completely in the Bible. For instance, the book of Psalms is replete with information regarding the Lord himself. Another place in Scripture to consider is Job 38 – 42. This is a long section but throughout it God is impressing on his servant Job the distinction between God and mankind (humankind if you insist), his creation. (If you do not have a Bible and want one, go to ESV.com where you can download a free e-book of the Bible. You can also get free Bibles at Google play or Apples App Store.)
An excellent summary of biblical teaching regarding God may be found in the Westminster Confession of Faith. Chapter 2. Here is a modernized English version of chapter 2, paragraph 1. There are two remaining paragraphs but this is a good start. If you have the time and inclination it would be instructive if you check out the old English one, especially if it has Scripture references.
Chapter 2 God and the Holy Trinity
1. There is only one living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection. He is a most pure spirit, invisible, with neither body, parts, nor passive properties. He is unchangeable, boundless, eternal, and incomprehensible. He is almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, and most absolute. He works all things according to the counsel of his own unchangeable and most righteous will, for his own glory. He is most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and he is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him. He is also most just and terrifying in his judgments, hating all sin, and will by no means acquit the guilty.
Before closing I must also say that the term “the man upstairs” although diminutive of the glory and grandeur of God, is not necessarily wrong – just incomplete. There is a sense in which there is a man who ascended into heaven and intercedes for his people. This is the risen Jesus – the unique God man who came to save his people from their sin. He is better referred to as “King Jesus” as he sits at the right hand of God, and will come and judge the living and the dead. It’s better to reverence him than to disrespect him.
Psalm 29: 1, 2, 10, 11, ESV:
“Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.”
“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.”
“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.”
“May the Lord give strength to his people! May the Lord bless his people with peace!”