Living the faith everyday

The sermon Sunday grabbed my attention. Not because the substitute preacher ranted and raved. No, all he did was speak simply of the struggle to live out his faith every day – including in the sports arena.

Since it was Father’s Day, Mark Hardenbrook focused on fathers living their faith and love for God in daily situations. He mentioned personal failures, but he also talked about what it meant to put God first during his children’s formative years – even when coaches did not like how it played out.

Hardenbrook wanted his sons to worship God with their actions and their words. His sons are left-handed pitchers and he is proud of them. He enjoys watching them play. But even his pride in their athletic skills did not diminish his commitment to put God first in every aspect of life. So, when the boys signed up for their first Little League team, he told them upfront that when a game or practice conflicted with a church event, they would be sitting in the pew, not on the bench.

During those early years, Hardenbrook personally gave the coaches – before the season began – the family score on church before sports. He told coaches his sons would show-up for games and practices – except when it conflicted with church activities such as Wednesday night services. As his sons grew older they took over explaining the ‘no games during church’ rule to the coaches. Coaches did not praise the family for standing by their convictions, nor did they necessarily agree with the stand, but they accepted it.

Hardenbrook made one compromise – on days his sons had a game before or after a service, they could wear their baseball uniforms to church. If the game came before the service, they played as long as they could and then slid into the pew at the last minute. If the game came afterwards, they left right after the last prayer and song.
The boys missed some Wednesday night games, but, “it was amazing how many Wednesday night games were either postponed or rescheduled,” Hardenbrook said.

In a time when sporting events increasingly encroach on traditional mid-week and even weekend church meetings, Hardenbrook’s stand goes against the grain. Many families sigh helplessly when a sporting event conflicts with their worship of God. They shrug their shoulders and take their child to the game and skip church. During the summer some take their children out of church camp so they can play with their team.

In a time when the Super Bowl pre-empts many churches regular schedules, when pew warmers spend more hours watching televised games or in the bleachers cheering their team than in the Bible or in worship of the God they say they love, Hardenbrook chose to live out “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5 NIV)

For years Hardenbrook demonstrated to his family what it means to live the Ten Commandments – even the one that says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)

When he chose to live his faith at home and in the community, Hardenbrook did not take the easiest path. But once he chose, he adhered to that commitment year after year. And, that kind of belief deserves a hearty “AMEN!” any time we see it.