It seems football frenzy has taken over the digital network. Have you been watching any of the games? How about that game on Saturday? You know the one. Edge of the chair, nail-biting, hold-your-breath exciting. I’m not a TV watcher and not a sports fan, so there were already two strikes against the probability that I would use up minutes to watch a football game on television, but up in the north country where TV channels are scarce, I succumbed just a little. What was so compelling about those games? Three things. First, the timing – I was a captive audience which is typically the only time I watch television. Second, the teams that were playing – Ohio State is ‘the team’ one friend supports and Michigan State (the green team). Third, the team work – I was immersed in the way those teams on the field and from the sidelines supported each other. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 “It’s better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps, But if there’s no one to help, it’s tough!
I confess, I don’t remember any of the details that a sports fanatic would find important. I don’t remember the coaches, the ending score, or who scored the most points. I don’t remember the names of the heroes credited with winning the game. What I do remember is the clock ticking down while the skirmish on the field produced conflict, then progress, then pile-ups, then more progress. First one team had the ball, then the opposing team had their chance – back and forth till the final seconds of the game . The teammates passed the ball back and forth, intercepting, running, rolling on the ground, punt, pass, kick, run like crazy people, tumble to the ground till time runs out. Then comes the eruption in the stadium. The final second, the careful checking of the recorded tape, the winner proclaimed, the beginning – because the next game is already being planned.
Watching those players work as a team was an amazing work of art. I couldn’t keep up with the ball even from an angle where I could see the full field. How do the players know who to toss the ball to, and how many seconds remaining before the next team has the ball, and how does the ball carrier pummel through the maze of opposition to get to the place where they can pass the ball or carry it through to a touchdown? Many would say that those games were won or lost in the final seconds of the game. I disagree. The final score was the deciding factor but the games were won or lost by the strategies and interactions of the players through every moment of the game. Teamwork! And practice! Vince Lombardi, a famous football coach said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”
This is how it is in life too. We can do some things on our own, independent of anyone else, for a while, but not for an extended period of time. We were created for relationship and need each other. Whatever path in life we are on, there we find relationships. Our first and primary relationship is with God. He created us in his image. Genesis 1:27 “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” And from that point on, we all were destined for relationships. It might have taken civilization a few thousand years to coin the term ‘team work’ but here is where we are. The game of life.
Life is a contact sport and sometimes we get beat up pretty bad. Sometimes it’s difficult to be part of the whole. Right? Sometimes I want to yell, ‘Stop the world and let me off, just for a little while.” Are you with me on this? Sometimes I pass the ball off and it falls to the ground, a dead ball. Other times, I pass the ball off – right into the hands of the opposing team. I aim high, and the ball goes far outside my target. Then there are those instances when the ball is in play, it gets passed and caught smoothly, hands touch it, move it to the next player, back to me, I pass it, they catch it, we move forward, we follow the play, we all win. I have a whole Bible full of scripture that advises on how to be the ultimate team player. Here are a few of my favorites for acting as a good team member:
Psalm 89:15 “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.”
Psalm 106:3 “Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.”
This game of life is our mission. We were uniquely created for a purpose and for relationship. We make a difference when we play our best game: carrying the ball, passing it off, intercepting, and running it in for someone who can’t do it. Let’s finish up with this primer on how we can make a difference on our mission field today.
Matthew 6:1-4, 14-15 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you…. or if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”