For some reason, I seem to find myself linked geographically with Bobby Petrino, the newly hired football coach at Western Kentucky University. During his stop at the University of Louisville, I was living in The Ville, serving at my home church. When he later left the Atlanta Falcons mid-season for the University of Arkansas, I was living in suburban Atlanta (local radio crucified him, by the way). Now, after a tumultuous couple of years, Petrino is back in my vicinity, coaching at WKU, just a couple of hours from my home in Murray.
Given my consistent proximity to him, I’ve been interested to follow his career, which has been replete with great success and incredible failure. Nevertheless, despite his moral failings, he is back in the coaching ranks. Whether or not he wins at WKU remains to be seen, but his life and career have already taught valuable lessons.
1. Be careful what you worship.
Fans in Louisville, Atlanta, and Fayetteville hate Bobby Petrino. That’s putting it mildly. But, why? U of L fans despise him because his departure brought the decline of the program, several player arrests, and several losses to Kentucky (tolerable in basketball, but not in football). Folks in Atlanta can’t stand him because he left the Falcons for Arkansas in the middle of the night, leaving them to deal with the Michael Vick scandal without a head coach. The Falcons have recovered, but it took a while. Fayetteville dislikes him because of the shame he brought to the University following his affair with an employee several years his junior (not to mention the subsequent brutal football season under one-year coach John L. Smith).
What does the hatred for Petrino teach? Be careful what you worship. Fans worship wins, notoriety, and the feeling they get from being associated with something successful. Universities and other organizations worship money generated by those wins. We all are prone to worship people like Bobby Petrino, with whom most of us would trade places because of his fame, money, and success.
Be careful what you worship because what you worship gets your heart. What gets your heart gets your trust. What gets your trust gets your obedience. What gets your obedience gets your life. Make no mistake, any created thing or being, when worshiped, will always let you down. No exceptions. Just ask the fans in Louisville, Atlanta, and Fayetteville.
2. Guard your heart and its desires.
I don’t know Bobby Petrino. I probably never will. But, if I had the chance to interview him, I would love to determine what unmet needs drove him to do the things he did. Was he seeking approval, security, control, or significance? It’s interesting that these desires were given to us by God Himself, but cannot be satisfied apart from Him. Ironically, attempting to meet our inmost desires apart from our Creator and Savior causes those desires to take over our lives, become like a drug, and lead us to do anything (really anything) to feel like they are being met. To meet them, we will chase money, sexuality, vocational position, beauty, and success. What we fail to realize is that these things, in themselves, are great gifts from God, but they are not designed to, and therefore cannot, meet our deepest needs. Guard your heart and its desires. From them come the direction of your entire life.
What’s the answer? Ecclesiastes 12:13–“When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: fear God and keep His commands…” For those worshiping the created rather than the Creator, repent. Trust Jesus as the source for all of life, including forgiveness and renewal and the meeting of your deepest needs. Receive His love and the status it confers on you. No amount of money, no job, no achievement, no lover, no amount of power, no national ranking for your football team…nothing can give you the status, security, and significance that comes with being loved by Jesus, with having Him as the center of your life.