Keepin’ Football and Faith Simple

Jeff Brown, Guest Writer

I’ve been a fan of college football my entire life, and, being a former high school football coach myself, there was no individual in the coaching profession that I held in higher esteem during my younger days than the former coach of the University of Alabama, Paul W. (Bear) Bryant. By the time he retired in 1981, he had won more college football games than any coach in history up to that point. As a child, though, he did not even know what a football was until he was in 8th grade, when the coach at his school in Fordyce, Arkansas, impressed with the young man’s size, asked if he’d like to play. According to his autobiography, Bryant replied, “I guess so, but I don’t know how to play.” The coach then responded, “Well, you see this football right here? When you see someone with this ball in their hands, you run as fast as you can and hit him as hard as you can.” Bear Bryant’s football philosophy never went too far beyond this simple premise – “Go as hard as you can, and hit them as hard as you can.” Over my 20-odd years as a football coach, I have seen how we have taken a very simple game and made it pretty complicated. The game still basically boils down to blocking and tackling, a very simple concept that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle of schemes, game-planning, and terminology.

In our Spiritual lives, I often see a parallel in the way we approach our daily walk with Christ. We have taken a very simple concept and made it into something that is either too complicated, or something that is so rehearsed and so memorized that we can do it by habit rather than by allowing the Spirit to guide us daily. Many times, it seems, we do things simply because that is the way we have always done them, or because that was the way our parents, or grandparents even, used to do them. Even into my thirties, I never questioned why. But in looking at the simple gift of salvation, whether viewing the simplicity of John 3:16 to the Scriptures of the Romans road (Romans 5:12, Romans 6:23, Romans 5:8, Romans 10:9-13) or on through to Revelation 3:20, we have often allowed ourselves to become slaves to the complexities of the traditions of religion, or simply to be led to being concerned with the world’s view of our worship rather than true spirituality and the true worship of God. In other words, we’ve taken our relationship with God, a very rich and special and simple one-on-one relationship and allowed it to become complicated with the traditions and ways of the world. It has gotten lost in the shuffle of schemes, game-planning and terminology. Wouldn’t ours be a much better walk, a much more personally-satisfying and God-pleasing walk, if we would all simply model the instructions of our spiritual journey with God on the simplicity of those instructions that Bryant’s football coach gave to him nearly a century ago? “I’d like to be a better Christian, but I don’t know how. How do I do it?”

Very simply, the best response would be, “Be Christ-like.” Would Mary Magdalene or the woman at the well be welcomed by us if they showed up at our door, or, better yet, showed up and sat beside us at church? Are we willing to wash the feet of our friends, or, even in the case of Judas, our betrayers? Are we patient with our friends and family members, as Christ was throughout his earthly ministry with his disciples, especially Peter? Are we as non-judgmental as Christ was when He walked the earth? Are we willing to suffer, especially through persecution, even though the persecutions we face do not compare to the grievous suffering that He endured hanging on that cross? Galatians 2:20 (NIV) tells us, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Is this walk easy? I would argue that ease of living is not what God promised us, so the answer to that question would be a resounding, “No!” However, the manner in which we approach it can be simple – a basic reminder to ourselves to approach every day and every situation with the resolve that we will be Christ-like in our response to everything, no matter what the secular world and Satan throws at us.

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