June 5, 2008

Roger Almighty: The Worship of Roger Federer

Posted in ATP Tennis, Christian Tennis Academy, ICTA Tennis, Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer, Scott Paschal Tennis, Tennis Devotionals, Tennis Ministry, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:04 pm by Scott Paschal

ICTA Founder, Scott PaschalRoger Federer is arguably the best tennis player in tennis history.

Without question, Federer has been the best player over the last 4 years. Not only has he been an amazing player, but he is someone who seems in his own way to work hard to be a positive ambassador for the sport.

Ask junior tennis players who they want to be like when they grow up, and you often hear them reply, “Roger Federer!”

As kids, most of us probably had our sports idols. Me, I thought Roger Staubach, the Super Bowl winning quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys was amazing.

But, as I grew older, and hopefully wiser, I’ve come to realize people who compete at a high level in their sport, while achieving fame and fortune, are not necessarily worthy of being role models.

We tend to treat celebrities with a type of reverence. I guess it’s human nature. For some reason we readily give these sports idols the reigns to our life, and the ability to influence our history.

Do you want to know how many top 100 ATP players regularly have sex with multiple partners… nightly!? I can name a couple. Should these men advise your son… or daughter… on life lessons?

Scotty w/ Athletes in Action Trainee and ICTA student, Chris.

Chris is leaving soon to play college and is embarking in a life of Christian ministry. What a treasure and a joy to have had Chris as a part-time academy student, and full time friend, these last 6 years.

I remember a few years ago when Federer split with his coach. He said he didn’t need one. So, kids worldwide decided they, too, didn’t need coaches. To be “cool” they decided they were experienced and aware enough to develop themselves into top 10 ATP or WTA players.

Unfortunately, the kids, and the parents who supported their decision, were wrong. And we have an entire generation of junior tennis players coming up who are woefully underdeveloped.

In addition, this generation of junior player learned to believe they were superior in knowledge to tennis coaches.

As incomes dried up, and reputations were damaged… how many good coaches did we lose to this, both now and in the future?

And from this how many kids were robbed of the mentorship and accountability structure provided by a caring coach? Among the most influential people in my life have been the men of God placed in my life who have taught me not just sports, but have taught me about life.

Sure Federer gave several coaches select roles at certain tournaments for short periods of time, and even had coaches here and there for weeks at a time.  But, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m concerned that his overall public theme about coaches and mentorship is damaging.

I don’t know where I would have been without my coaches.

Those coaches in and of themselves by their examples and deeds have taught me how to have a relationship with my Creator, and how to live within an accountability structure, and how to plan and achieve goals, and so much more…

So, to the kid who worshiped Roger Federer and dumped his or her coach, I have to ask if they can see now their choice wasn’t such a good one. And to Roger Federer I would ask if he realizes the difficult impact his choice has had on junior tennis development and beyond….

In addition, kids are highly aware Federer isn’t married, yet travels with his girlfriend worldwide, shacking up in hotels and playing married?  Thus, kids believe it’s cool to do the same….

Honestly, I find it hard to believe she is the one who wants to stay unmarried. She has helped him earn millions of $ for years, and obviously loves him.  And Fed  probably doesn’t want a huge, public breakup where she is left with nothing.  Or a “forced” marriage from pregnancy….

Just get married, Fed.

What are your thoughts on this? Is this the message you believe should dominate the hearts and minds of your sons and daughters?

Should sex outside the bonds of marriage be promoted so outspokenly by one of the world’s highest profile athletes? Does this undermine God’s plan for marriage?

Do you feel good about Roger Federer’s highly publicized actions possibly guiding your children away from God’s views on marriage and sex and family?

Sure, he has his foundation which helps people. And without question, he strives to remain humble and approachable. I think we all really, really like him, right?

That said, I’m not questioning his likableness. Nor am I judging him.  I make mistakes and am the first to say I am not a good person.  I am simply asking you if Roger Federer should be an object of your child’s worship.

Or should you work to replace Roger with Jesus in your child’s heart?

Now, as Roger Federer sees his amazing career slowing, what will be his legacy? Sure, he will be known as among the tennis’ best. But, I’m asking what his real legacy will be.

What will be the Kingdom impact he will have for Christ?

If you are an atheist reading this… you probably want to puke.  Understandable. This may seem ridiculous to you.  That’s ok, your belief that nothing created everything seems ridiculous to me, too

Scott Paschal in Normandy

Fellowship of Christian Athletes Campus President, Emma Hustad, in Normandy, France w/ ICTA Founder, Scott Paschal, and ICTA Women's Pro Team Captain, Rachel Snelen, during 2007 ICTA foundation-laying outreach to Roland Garros

That said, a big question comes up when I talk with kids. I ask, “Who is your idol?”

I listen to what they have to say. Then, I ask them if they understand their choices in life have a huge impact on the direction and growth and quality of not just their tennis, but their lives. And not just their lives, but the lives of others?

Instead of giving my opinion on who they should idolize, I ask them to look at the Bible for guidance.

Like Roger Federer, Scott Paschal is flawed. I have my daily struggles, and I’m the first to say if God hadn’t guided me into Christian ministry, I have no business being here with my life story.

Additionally, I’m not an expert on what every kid should do. But, I am someone who looks to God’s word when I see something I need to improve in my life. Especially when organizing my life priorities!

That said, a question I ask myself is, “Who or what rules my life?” Is it tennis, family, career, ministry friends…?

What about you?

Who sits on the throne of your life?

Is it Roger Federer or Maria Sharapova? Or someone or something else? If so, let’s take a look at what God’s word says.

Jump Down… Off of Your Throne

“(The people of Tyre and Sidon who had sought an audience with Herod because they had been quarreling with him). On the appointed day King Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, ‘This is the voice of a god, not of a man.’ Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an Angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” Acts 12:21-23 (NIV)

(Pretty gross, huh? Eaten by worms and died! Notice the order here. First eaten, then died. Not too pretty for a King….)

KEY QUESTIONS: “Who or What sits on the throne of your life? What is my priority?”

1. Is it self?

2. Is it success?

3. Is it stuff?

*A Man Called Doubting Thomas

“Jesus said he was going to Bethany and be with Lazarus even though the disciples warned him that some of the Jews tried to take his life the last time He was there). Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of disciples, let us also go that we may die with him’ .” John 11:16 (NIV)

“Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it’.” John 20:24-25 (NIV)

1. Didymus means twin.

“Thomas (called Didymus)….”

2. Thomas had the courage to go and die with Jesus.

“…let us go that we may die with him.”

3. Yet Thomas lacked the faith to believe in Jesus.

…I will not believe it.”

*Our Personal Struggles with Duplicity

“Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify you hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8

1. In some ways all Christians are two different persons

“I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned; but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin.” Romans 7:22-23 (LB)

2. Our greatest struggle is within

“So you see how it is: my new life tells me o do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin.” Romans 7:24a (LB)

3. The danger is falling back to our selfish, carnal nature.

“Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature?” Romans 7:24b (LB)

*Hopping Off of the Throne

“Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free.” Romans 7:24-25 (LB)

1. First, I must determine who or what sits on the throne of my life.

“So why do you call me ‘Lord’, when you won’t obey me?” Luke 6:46 (NLT)

2. Then, I must replace whatever is sitting on my throne with Jesus.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of man who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

3. Third, I must determine that Jesus Christ will be all of all of my life.

” Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus first appeared to them. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hands into his side, I will not believe it’. A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God! Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” John 20:24-29

Closing Thoughts: A Wise Person Once Said…

“If Jesus Christ is not your LORD of ALL He is not your LORD at ALL!!

Can I say something that I think Roger Federer would be the first to agree with?

Federer is just a man, a regular guy with regular struggles. A guy who happens to be a celebrity. He isn’t in any way, shape, or form an answer to or a replacement for… Jesus.

Junior tennis players are a solitary bunch. They seldom benefit from a team atmosphere. Mom and Dad dedicate weekends to tournament travel. Attending church is forgotten. Sunday’s are dedicated for tournament semifinals and finals.

Scott Paschal in Africa

My student, Anastasia Kharchenko, and I spoke to the media/TV daily about Jesus while in Africa. Ana won 11 matches in a row to win 2 ITF Pro Circuit events in 2 weeks, which gave us a large platform to share our faith in Christ.

The family bond is filled with discouragement and pain and envy and emptiness….

I have seen so many divorces, eating disorders, heartaches, etc. caused from Christian families who believe in Jesus, but do not follow Jesus, and have placed tennis as their purpose of worship.

I am well aware of the spiritual battle parents and junior players are entrenched within. As I’m contacted from people worldwide, I work to bring them back to a singular focus on Jesus, the Jesus of the Bible, with nothing added or taken away. Just Jesus.

Invading my life/house right now, and eating all of my food :), are my amazing tennis and missions academy students representing 7 countries. My heartbeat is to teach them to focus on Jesus as their source of purpose.

These kids, and their parents, are a point of encouragement for me as I seek His Kingdom. I treasure this time in my life. Yet, the kids and their families are not what I ground myself in. I strive to base my life in God’s word, to gain Kingdom principles.

Sure, tennis is important. But, tennis is simply the tool God has given us to share our faith and resources. Tennis is not the source of life or happiness. Tennis is just a tool, a Kingdom tool for following the Great Commission as written in Mathew 28 of your Bible.

My prayer is tennis fans and players worldwide would begin to understand the importance of placing Jesus on the throne of their lives. Tennis worshiped is destructive. Tennis as a Kingdom tool is constructive. Jesus must be clearly placed in view and made known as the source of life within your world view.

ICTA Women's Pro Team member, WTA ranked Anastasia Kharchenko, in Africa after winning match. Each precious child received free Christian gifts from ICTA.

When this happens, life begins to come into focus. And you will see your reason.

Roger Federer will soon be gone from the pro tennis scene. Another generation of kids will flock to worship another tennis great.

Federer will be old news to them. His ways, on and off the tennis court, will no longer be relevant.

That said, today please consider who and/or what is guiding your life. Consider the eternal consequences of your choices. Are you choosing to follow a trend? A sports legend? Or Jesus?

On the tennis court, Federer is mighty.

Yet, as amazing as he is as a tennis player, he is simply a person like you and me.

Jesus Christ is the only One worthy of worship.

He is the One that it is an honor to serve.

God bless,

Scott Paschal

International Christian Tennis Association

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