I love football. Apparently, I’m not alone in this country. We are obsessed with our football. We love our favorite teams, but we simply love the game. I’ve been a football fan since I was at least 5 years old. My parents tell the story of when I was about that age telling them that 49ers running back Roger Craig needed 67 yards to reach a 1000 for the season. My love for football has just continued to grow over the years. I played it through high school. (Actually was pretty good my senior year. I had 9 sacks my senior year, all 165 lbs of me in 6A football.) I used to want to be a football coach, till God called me away from it. I love football and have the ability to see many illustrations from it, and so I thought I would share some of them with you. First up, what does the variety of offensive and defensive systems being run today, teach us about our own spiritual life. If you watch a weekend of football this fall, you will see a variety of different offenses. Watch Texas Tech and they will throw the ball 3/4 of the time. Watch Georgia Tech and you will see the classic triple option run to perfection. Watch the Indianapolis Colts run a 1 back offense to perfection. Watch the Minnesota Vikings break out the Power I. All of these football teams will run these offenses with great success. Same thing can be said for defenses. Some defenses run a classic cover 2 defense. Others will run an attacking 3-4. While others will run a more traditional 4-3. Ask any of these coaches and they believe that their system is the best.
If you look at who has won the last few championships, however you will find different styles of teams. Traditionally it is said that if you run the football and stop the run, then you will a championship. This site attempts to break that myth. You might hear that defense wins championships. Here is an article against that. So what are the common denominators of great football teams? First, they are fundamentally sound. They do the little, but important things like tackle and block downfield. They are always where they are supposed to be. Next, great teams use their talent wisely. When OU had Adrian Peterson, they lined him up 8 yards deep and handed him the football. The Colts let Peyton Manning use both his superior physical and mental abilities and built an offense around those skills. Also, great teams are committed to their system whatever that system may be. The coaches believe in their system, and the players buy into it as well. They are wholly committed to it. They trust it. Everyone is in it together and believes in one another. They are committed at getting up and lifting weights at 5:30 A.M. They are willing to study their playbook and know not only their responsibility but their teammates responsibilities. They are dedicated to being the best.
So what does this mean for us in our faith journey? Let’s start first with the destination. The goal of football is to win the championship. The goal of our faith journey is holiness. Jesus calls us at the end of the Sermon on the Mount to “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We are called to be holy not just with our outward actions, but with our inward thoughts as well.
Some people like to think that there is a perfect system to ones devotional life. A morning quiet time. K-Love on the way to work. Visit to the nursing home on the way home, and C.S. Lewis before you go to bed. Just do these 5 steps and you will be holy. A friend told me that often new Christians get in trouble because they begin their faith journey, and go to some conference on prayer, and they learn a new way to pray, and they try it, it doesn’t work for them, and they wonder what happens to their faith. The answer is that we each have our own path on this communal faith journey. There is not one way to be a Christian. Like each team has a different system, so to are we created unique and different, and we need to find our peculiar way to be in relationship with God, but there are some things that are consistent.
First, there is a general practice of the fundamentals of faith: the means of grace. The means of grace include reading the Bible, prayer, talking about God with others, and worship. These are the fundamentals of faith, and if one wants to grow in love and relationship with God they must practice these in some manner. For some reading the Bible is a 30 minute exercise each day with 2 commentaries in tow. For others it may just be a Psalm every morning. We must each find our own spiritual rhythm using these fundamentals.
Next, we must use our own talents and personality. God created you special. The Father lovingly crafted you uniquely. Heather and I have found that we are close to God when we sing and worship together. That time of worship ushers us into the presence of God. We find God in serving our neighbors, but some people are created to best serve the 3rd Grader, while others are best created to serve the prisoner. Find your unique rhythm and be crafted into holiness.
Finally, we must be committed to it. Richard Foster in his book, Prayer, says it beautifully, “Once we have made generous latitude for individual differences and schedules, we must firmly discipline ourselves to a regular pattern of prayer… We will never have time for prayer- we must make time.” We respond to Christ’s incredible sacrifice, in the only way we can, we give of ourselves. Not part, but all. We must make this relationship with God the priority in our life.
The great news is that God works in numerous ways, even in our weakness. When we offer ourselves to God, God empowers us with the Holy Spirit. Hear the Good News: God loves you, and sincerely wants to be in a relationship with us. Let us respond to God, and truly Be the Way We Were Made.