Two practical lessons Christians can learn from football

Derek Hamby

In “Any Given Sunday”, Al Pacino plays an aging NFL coach. Toward the end of the movie, he gives a monologue about how football, like life, is a game of inches:

“… The inches we need are everywhere around us. On this team we fight for that inch. On this team we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. Because we know when we add up all those inches, that's gonna make the difference between winning and losing!"

Sure, the long pass to the end zone is exciting. But in between the big plays are a lot of short ones, and those short plays are often decided by a matter of inches.

Following Jesus often feels the same way. Some next steps — like salvation or marriage — are like the big play that makes it to the highlight reel on SportsCenter. But other next steps feel more like first downs—not sexy but still moving us closer to the goal of becoming more like Jesus.

Two Practical Lessons a Christian Can Learn From Football

1. Small choices now can lead to highlight moments later.

In the coaching ranks, ESPN and other networks will often televise the introduction of a new head coach in the college ranks or NFL. This moment is not possible without the roles that prepared the coach to be a head coach, like the hours as a low paid graduate assistant or living behind the scenes as a special teams coordinator.

We often see or hear stories of how someone invited a friend to church and his or her life was changed. The stories are celebrated and all of us would like to impact someone’s life in a similar way. It takes small steps of obedience to be prepared. It can be as simple as memorizing one verse and being prepared to share it in the moment. Many small acts of obedience lead to the highlight moments.

Small acts of obedience lead to the highlight reel moments.

1 Samuel 17:34-35 says, “But David said to Saul, ‘[I have] been keeping [my] father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it.’”

David used opportunities as a shepherd—a low-level job—to prepare himself for bigger moments, like when he faced Goliath in battle. He knew God had equipped him to do things that were not normal. David didn’t know the battle with Goliath was upcoming, but he focused on being excellent where he was day by day.

2. Fundamentals build the foundation.

As a coach, you have to build your team up. In the game of football, defenses have to defend multiple types of offense, but before you can teach them to defend anything, they must learn how to tackle. It is a skill that is a simple expectation by the common fan, but every coach knows how important at every level it is to practice tackling.

Tackling is a fundamental element of football that leads to success. Here are three fundamentals that are important to practice as Christian:

  • Prayer - asking God to do amazing things in you and in other people.
  • Reading the Bible - listening to Jesus and doing what He says.
  • Serving - helping other people connect with Jesus and connect with the church.

Looking for opportunities to apply these fundamentals in your life can not only make a difference for you, but it will make a difference in the lives of others.

When the church began and a man named Paul traveled around to help churches get started, he worked with a variety of people to share the message of Jesus. Paul describes one person, Titus, not just as another person on the team, but as someone he could trust: “As for Titus, he is my partner and co-worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ” (2 Corinthians 8:23).

It was through being faithful with the fundamentals that Titus was given more responsibility.

The inches—every small choice we make—can be the difference between winning and losing. As a Christian, we know that in Christ we win, but we must also continue to fight for those inches, so others may receive the salvation that can only be found with Jesus.

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