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Football, Fear, Overcoming and Victory

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In high school a varsity football coach had a profound impact on my life . . . in a destructive way.  I could bench press 275 but was a whopping 185 pound offensive and defensive lineman.  I was often outweighed 40 to 100 pounds by every opposing player I went against.  I loved my offensive line coach, but my defensive line coach was an abusive person.  He would grab your facemask and throw you to the ground.  He would kick you when you were in your stance, and then when you stood up he would slam you on the helmet and yell to get back down, repeating this over and over.  One day when I was over the ball as offensive center that coach began to spit on my arms, saying that even that couldn’t make me tough.  When I drove that defender backwards he yelled I was still an expletive.  Looking back, it is no wonder that I loved playing offense under one coach and absolutely froze and panicked when I played defense under the other coach.  Dread, doubt and fear of a lashing are a bad formula for success in sports.  My offensive coach was tough at times, but in a positive way.  During one practice he kept telling the defensive linemen where the play was going before each snap, with a smile on his face.  The defender would naturally rush to that area and I would be told by the coach to do 20 pushups each time I missed the cutoff block.  He knew he had stacked the deck against me.  After I had done several hundred pushups the offensive line coach said, “Lile, we have a great win-win going on today.  You are going to either get much better at blocking or much stronger.  Agreed?”  “Yessir,” I said, shaking my head and smiling.  I loved that coach!  He was being hard on me, but with his support and confidence I was being trained for success.

Almost 40 years later those memories are still vivid.  And they remind me of a much bigger picture that Christians are enduring in life.  Life involves many of the same elements experienced in Texas high school football: doubts, clear successes and defeats, overwhelming odds at times, fear of failure, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!  Sometimes the news makes Christians feel our opponents and circumstances are overwhelmingly superior and are certain to crush us.  Sometimes the defeats make us question how we can find the motivation to go on.  And other times we tend to let a little success lead to pride that sets us up for a hard fall.  Christians have very dark and ominous archrivals: our old sin nature, the world with its fallen system, and Satan and his demonic host.  These oppose every area of our lives including marriage, parenting, relationships, economics, politics, work and more.  Some Christians feel they are holding their own against their opponents and some feel as though they are being driven to the turf play after play.

Satan’s desire is to kill, steal and destroy humanity, attacking what God most desires and values.  He is the voice and actions that tell us of our worthlessness, our inability to succeed, our powerlessness... we are the object of his ridicule and scorn.  The Bible says Satan is a liar, our accuser, the deceiver, a slanderer, the tempter, an adversary and a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour.  Satan kicks you when you are down and knocks you down when you stand up.  He tries to bring destructive and defeatist focuses to our mind, our will and our emotions.  He unleashes division into once strong relationships.  We mustn’t let him shape thoughts into hopelessness, fear, doubt, insecurity, weakness, failure and condemnation.  If we do we freeze up when the lights are on and the big games of life are here.  If we believe and follow his accusations, we play and live life at our lowest level of confidence and identity rather than being confident and secure in both our strengths and weaknesses.

Jesus is the ultimate life-coach!  He has played the game.  He has been in the trenches.  The Bible says He is sympathetic, having been tempted in all ways as we are, and yet without sin.  I always feel a special bond with football players, knowing they understand the suffering and price to play and win the game.  Jesus invites us to “know Him and the power of His resurrection and fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that we may attain to the resurrection of the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

Jesus, as a good and perfect life-coach, sometimes chides us (Luke 24:25), rebukes us (Matthew 16:23), disciplines us (Hebrews 12:6) and even allows us to endure failure to fulfill a higher goal (John 21:18).     

When you are afraid, anxious and doubtful about the world and events, turn to Jesus and focus on His promises.  God promises, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).  Scripture also exhorts, “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Ernest Hemingway stated something that is in many Christians’ thoughts today.  “The world breaks everyone, and afterward some are strong at the broken places.”  Believers should be the stronger ones after brokenness because we have a far greater relationship in Christ and a far higher purpose for living.  Regardless of how the game is going or the power of the opponent, we must remember our purpose, our destiny and that we serve Christ from victory and not just a hope to achieve victory.  He has already won.

Life, attitude and focus are beautifully expressed in the words of Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow.
‘Tis the set of the sails
And the gales
Which tells us the way to go.
Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate,
As we voyage along through life:
‘Tis the set of a soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.   
 

Play the game of life in confidence.  God’s grace is sufficient.  In Christ we have already won.  You are a part of a much greater, victorious team.  Ignore the voice of destruction, doubt and condemnation.  Follow the instructions and commands of the perfect and glorious life-coach, our Lord Jesus Christ!

Pastor Craig Lile

Posted by Craig Lile with 1 Comments

To Vote or Not to Vote... What does God Expect of Me?

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In November’s election, every eligible adult will cast a ballot…at the voting booth or by staying home.   None of us can avoid being partly accountable for the election’s outcome.  My vote or my refusal to vote will still count on one side or the other of each issue.  Whether or not I like the presidential candidates and/or I disagree with some candidates’ beliefs, I should still get out and vote. 

God expects me to have Christian influence on elections, and He did not say to vote only when the candidates are God-fearing, righteous people who live out their faith.  If I wait until at least one candidate in each contest is a committed Christian, I will probably never vote again.  Instead, God would have me to identify the election issues, study each candidate’s positions on the issues, pray, and then vote for the person at each level who is most likely to move our nation, our state, our city, and our schools in God’s direction.  With an estimated 90 million Christians eligible to register to vote in America, it is estimated that no more than 51 million of us ever vote.1   When we Christians return to God and take responsibility for our sin (and our voting), our land will begin to move back toward God.  

To those of you who don’t like either presidential candidate this year, remember that many offices (not just president) are being decided November 8.  The late Christian leader Phyllis Schlafly has said, “…the future of our country depends on people like you participating in political action.  Help some candidate get elected.  Make sure you vote against the wrong one…some people object to voting what they say is the lesser of two evils—I just remind them:  somebody is going to be elected to those offices and Jesus is not on the ballot.”   By not voting, I let others decide who represents me, and most likely the candidates least agreeable to me will be the winners while I will have lost a great privilege by refusing to vote. 

The Bible instructs us to “render unto Caesar [the government] what is Caesar’s…” (Matthew 22:21) which can be applied to my responsibility as a citizen of this great nation.  Whether I am paying taxes or voting, I have a responsibility to do my part.  It is not right for me to expect others to pay my tax obligation, and it is not right for me to expect someone else to decide the outcome of elections. Someone will be elected whether I vote or not, but by not voting, I place the responsibility of choosing our representatives upon other people, and that, Christian friend, is irresponsible.

Let every Christian be responsible and vote as God directs us in November.  Even if you disagree with my position, join me in praying that every person who is elected, whether likeable or not, will lead us toward the will of God. 

 
 
Larry Shields
Associate Pastor of Administration

 

1 One Vote Matters video, www.ChristianVoterGuide.com
 
 
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