“A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.” Proverbs 28:20
USC quarterback Matt Barkley is a great example of a faithful man. After being highlighted in our Spring 2010 issue, an NCAA investigation on the USC football program resulted in a two-year ban from all post-season play and a reduction in scholarships. This crushing blow led several Trojan players to transfer to other schools. But one big name player remained: Barkley. Being steadfast is becoming a trend for the SoCal native. After signing with USC, head coach Pete Carroll left the school along with offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. But in January 2010, Barkley announced that he would stay. “I came to this school because I wanted to be a Trojan, and nothing about coaches leaving would change that for me,” he said. And the NCAA ruling that was announced in June 2010 didn’t make him change his tune. His steadfastness is a great example for us in life. When life throws unfair obstacles your way, how do you handle them? Sometimes it’s easy to turn and run, or take an easy way out. Being faithful has its rewards though. Barkley has thrived as the quarterback for the Trojans and has the makings of an NFL play caller, with or without a trophy in his hand.
“I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.” 1 Chronicles 29:17a
“Sports do not build character. They reveal it,” says legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. He should know! Wooden has coached thousands of players over his lifetime, and continues to make a lasting impact as an author of books about character and leadership. Integrity is one of the building blocks of good character. It means being consistent in every area of our lives. It means having the same character at school, with our friends, at home, on the job, or on the court. Sports can bring out the best and worst in us. When you’re put to the test, how do you respond? Whether it’s learning to control your temper, learning to be a team player, respecting your coaches (or players), working hard, or learning to win and lose well, sports creates an excellent avenue for growth in our lives.
Luke 16:10a “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…”
I’ve always admired legendary college basketball coach John Wooden. One particular interview he gave several years ago while promoting his “The Pyramid of Success” caught my attention. When asked about the most valuable piece of advice he’d ever given his players, his answer surprised me. It was quite simple: put your socks on correctly. Over time, Coach Wooden noticed that his players weren’t smoothing out the wrinkles around their toes and around the heel, which caused painful blisters. He also made sure his players laced up their sneakers correctly and wore the right size. Of all the advice he gave his players, why was this the most important? Because he couldn’t coach a team to victory while they sat on the bench with blisters. And so it is with God. If we won’t listen to his instructions on the small things in life, we remain on the sidelines, unable to make a difference in the big moments in the game of life.
Psalm 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
2008 Summer Olympics gold medal decathlete Bryan Clay is considered the world’s greatest athlete, but in a room full of everyday folks dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, he hardly stands out. Likewise, in a field of competitors that average well over 6 feet tall, his 5-11 stature is clearly a disadvantage. Yet he achieved the greatest margin of victory in the decathlon event in Beijing since the 1972 Olympics, an astounding feat in the track and field world. Understanding what his body is capable of doing on a track is beyond humbling. According to the Nike SPARQ test (which measures sport-specific athleticism), only two NFL running backs can match Bryan’s speed in the 40-yard dash and only one NBA player can match his vertical leap. His coach, Kevin Reid, once mentioned in an interview that God pulled out all the stops when He made Bryan—in other words, He left all of His cards out on the table. That may be true, but those gifts didn’t become apparent without the hard work Bryan put into his training over the course of many years. It’s reassuring knowing that the same hands that made Bryan made you as well. There may be more potential inside you than you originally thought.
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14
Soccer can be a frustrating sport to watch. I’ve seen many games near the 90-minute mark with the score tied at 0-0. Neither team is any closer to victory than they were at the first whistle, yet they both keep trying. The battle between the offense and defense is an incredible example of persistence! No matter how exhausted the players are from running up and down the field, they continue to battle toward the goal with the same explosive speed and precise footwork as the beginning of the game. It takes great teamwork to push the ball down the field, and the persistence required to achieve just one goal makes it a goal worth celebrating—often bringing an entire stadium to its feet as the team celebrates the player who scored and carries him or her around the field! In life, we often try to push the ball down the field by ourselves, which makes it almost impossible to succeed. It’s critical that we let others help us along the way—running alongside to provide encouragement, help us make the right choices, and best of all, to celebrate with us when we win.
”He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights.” 2 Samuel 22:34
Go For It!
LaDainian Tomlinson and his NFL running back counterparts have the uncanny ability of finding a hole in the line of scrimmage, deftly slipping through it, and exploding up the field with incredible speed. It requires precision and instinct to anticipate an opening in the field and seize the moment before it passes. Once he takes a handoff from the quarterback, Tomlinson knows that his window of opportunity can come and go in a split second. A door that was once open can close quickly. That’s what makes a good running back great; the ability to anticipate and recognize an opening, and the courage to try to make it through. When God sends an open door your way, don’t wait and let it pass you by. Go for it!