Last week, NFL officials announced that they would be investigating the New England Patriots to find out how 11 of the 12 game balls they had provided for the recent AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts became under-inflated. The Patriots won 45-7, advancing to the Super Bowl, and the subsequent scandal has been humorously dubbed “Deflate-gate.”
Footballs for NFL games should have between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds of air per square inch, according to a Fox News report. NFL officials reportedly have conducted more than 40 interviews, looking into the possibility that the balls were partially deflated by as much as two pounds.
Why does this matter? Supposedly, a deflated football would be easier for the quarterback to grip and for receivers to catch. One sports commentator compared it to throwing and catching a Nerf football. Obviously, it could give a team an unfair advantage.
So, the question avid football fans are asking is, who let the air out of those footballs? The Patriots’ players and coaches are denying any knowledge of tampering with game balls. Quarterback Tom Brady even called the media accusations “ridiculous.”
For the record, I have no knowledge of who, if anyone, did it either. But like those footballs, we can easily become deflated in life. It’s no mystery, however. Words hurt; plans go awry; circumstances change; fortunes falter, relationships break, discouragement looms large.
An encouraging word is crucial; affirmation can become a healing salve. In Proverbs 25:11, Solomon compares an encouraging word to apples of gold: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”
David Jeremiah, in his recently released “Quest” devotionals, expounds upon this verse by sharing about Dr. William Mayo of the Mayo Clinic. “Whenever a younger doctor read a paper at a staff meeting, Dr. Mayo would inevitably approach him afterward, put his hand on his shoulder, and offer a quiet word of encouragement, like “Good work!'” Jeremiah writes. Afterward the younger doctor often would receive an encouraging note from the esteemed mentor.
“It’s also said that Mayo’s smiles and greetings to his patients as he made his daily rounds had almost as much to do with their recovery as his medicine,” Jeremiah adds. What a wonderful thing to have said about you: Your words are like medicine.
Words of affirmation, indeed, can be a healing salve to broken spirits. They may be a cure someone desperately needs, and they may be a boost that emboldens one of God’s servants. “We can build others up with encouragement and we can ask God to always give us a word fitly spoken,” Jeremiah urges.
At the baptism of Jesus, God spoke a fitting word: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Think what that affirmation must have meant to Jesus: His Heavenly Father was pleased with Him. The words were no doubt also a blessing to John and the onlookers who heard them that day as well.
How much more do we need some timely words of affirmation and encouragement? What a wonderful prayer for us in 2015: “Lord, give me a word fitly spoken for someone who needs to hear it today.”
One Sunday, when my wife and I were keeping the church nursery, one child sat on the floor and began building a tall house of blocks. I sat down beside him to lend a hand. When we were nearly finished, another kid romped over and kicked all the blocks down. He was having a blast! But the child who had built the house? Not so much.
Together, we laughed, picked up the blocks, and rebuilt the house taller than before. Sometimes in life, we all need someone to help us laugh when adversity strikes and pick up our scattered blocks. Be an encourager!
Leadership author John Maxwell urges, “How can we positively impact the life of another person? Through encouragement! I believe it is one of the greatest gifts you or I can give someone else.” Look around this week, someone nearby needs to hear a good word: your spouse, son, daughter, neighbor, friend, co-worker, pastor, Sunday School teacher or even a complete stranger. Your words have the power to inflate—or deflate.