If I Were a Coach....

“With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything.”
Mark 4:33-34
A parable of facing changes and challenges, by David Parker.

I grew up loving and playing sports. It was my favorite pastime. I had my favorite teams, my favorite players, and my favorite dreams of becoming a superstar. I remember when teams used to be more iconic in their persona. The “Purple People Eaters” (Minnesota Vikings) the “Steel Curtain” (Pittsburg Steelers), “Monsters of Midway” (Chicago Bears), the “Fearsome Foursome” (LA Rams), and “America’s Team” (Dallas Cowboys).  Those were the days when teams were teams, not franchise businesses.

Some would argue that “Sports Madness” has taken over America's better judgment. The "Bad Boys" list seems to be moving to the "C" section of every major newspaper (Sports Page) and is looking more and more like a police line-up of Sporting America's "who's who!" Admittedly, it's easy to take a pot-shot from the sidelines, but the culture of violence, "naughty behavior," scandal, and "thuggery" has captured the Roman "Coliseum fever" and transported it into stadiums and bars all across America.  While this does not mean that sport is inherently evil (quite to the contrary), these noble sports are often played by athletes and watched by fans who have lost the vision of playful competition where the enjoyment of a game well played means more than a victory.
It is true that over the last forty years, Games have become less sport and more “contest”...life and death grudge battles for the spectacle of victory circles.  It is a fine line between seeking a victory for your team verses seeking defeat and humiliation for your opponent.  So, what should teams and coaches do?  If I were a coach (that sounds strange), I would offer my team four words -- a short playbook for success -- guideposts for the direction and disposition of our focus, manner, and spirit, as we “compete” in the game of life.
1 - HONOR the game. The game can only be honored by honorable players.  A source of credit and distinction to their sport, a true athlete will embody the best of their sport.  They will seek to master the game with grace and discipline.  To honor the game means embracing its discipline, etiquette, and skill.

2 - Play with INTEGRITY. Character matters. Who you are off the field and on the field affects the way you play the game and how you represent the sport and team you play for. Honest players are valued for their uncompromising commitment to excellence through their performance. The nobility of their play is showcased through role-modeling attitudes and actions that are humble in victory and gracious in defeat.  Their path in performance is not cheap, abrasive, or shocking short-cuts – but steady, consistent, and dependable delivery of a focused life.

3 - RESPECT your opponent. Only when we respect our opponents and validate their skill do we right-size ourselves, our teams, our opponents, and the game we play. To honor the game is to treat the sport and the opponents with a dignifying respect that seeks to elevate and inspire noble competition. Athletes with vision seek to study their opponents, learn from their performance, adjust to their weaknesses, and favor their strengths. Respect lends itself naturally to strategy which reinforces finesse more than brawn.

4 - EXECUTION of your role. Your position is key and matters to the whole team. Peak performance is the vision of being the best version of the ideal player for your position that you can be.... for yourself, for your team, and for your sport. To honor the game (and yourself) is to play your very best, even to the end of a losing battle. Outstanding execution with respect for self and others, upholding personal integrity, and honoring the essence of the sport is, in the end, the greater win!

Since you and I don’t play sports, the analogy might be lost. In this parable,

  • The “GAME” is Life in the KINGDOM OF GOD.
  • INTEGRITY is the EXPECTATION of how a citizen is to live out their life and members of this Kingdom family. 
  • RESPECT is validating the realness of opposition in this world and strategizing and adjusting for victory.
  • EXECUTION is stepping up into the BEST VERSION of an IDEAL PLAYER for the role(s) that you will play.

When we believe that God’s Kingdom is actually real, we wrap our lives around that reality as the organizing truth of who we are (identity) and what we are to do & become (purposed mission). Since Kingdom life is different from religious conformity, our “on-the-field” and “off-the-field” living is to be indistinguishable. We are always the Lord’s, and our life now belongs to Him. Then there’s that nagging nemesis called “Danger.” Those who deny danger, eventually get bitten by surprise. Those who fear danger will collapse into paralysis and are stunted and stopped from growth and victory. Only those who realize and respect danger can actually gain the edge towards victory as they become shrewd as vipers while remaining innocent as doves. Those who own their roles as significant and important will execute them with spiritual devotion, knowing that they play and work for an audience of one. Doing our work (our roles) heartily as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24) is how we execute and stay in the story no matter what.

So how do we apply this parable to our upcoming sea-change?

1 – The Kingdom Life is the only approach you should be living and organizing around.
2 - Consistent, present, dependable, and faithful team members are a must.
3 – Know there is always opposition and trouble lurking around us.
4 – Live your best servant life now.

All of these attributes will be required in full supply to help us turn the corner and sail into a new day and chapter for faithful ministry.

With God, all things are possible!

Pastor David 😊

1 Comment

David G. Lura - May 2nd, 2024 at 7:15pm

One again, "Coach", you have so accurately "scored." My nephew, Davis, is the Head Football [and assistant basketball] Coach at Marysville Getchell. He provide similar discourse to his players . . . and parents . . . via the internet and in person. I have copied you notes and forwarded them to him . . . as food for fodder . . . when it comes time for his next missive. Thank you . . . again . . . for your awesome insights. dgl





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