A Lesson on Spiritual Impact from "The Coach"

I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 1 Corinthians 9:26

It felt like a lightning bolt had run from the base of my skull, through my neck and shoulders, and down my right arm. The pain was excruciating. I’d just received my first “stinger,” or “burner,” an intensely painful nerve injury. It was football spring training during my sophomore year of high school. I had taken on a senior fullback named Chris Haynes in a drill known as the Oklahoma. Normally, the Oklahoma drill pits three offensive linemen against three defensive linemen.

A coach tells the running back behind the offensive line where to run. The same coach lets the offensive linemen know where to block the defenders. There is also a wide receiver positioned to take on a defensive back several yards behind the defensive line. We were running a scaled-down version of the Oklahoma where it was one on one between an offensive and defensive lineman with a defensive back—me— positioned about five or six yards off the line of scrimmage. My job was to see which way the running back cut from the line of scrimmage and to stop him. Chris’s job was to get past me.

There was no question who won our encounter. As Chris cut to his left, my right, I came flying up to meet him, head down. He planted me on my back as he continued on to score. After my stinger, Dad taught me that I need to be looking at the ballcarrier when I tackle him. “See what you’re hitting!” he would bark. In recent years, more and more emphasis has been put on player safety in an effort to avoid catastrophic injuries in football. Dad’s coaching was ahead of his time in this regard. Back when Dad coached, it was common to hear, “Put your head down and go!” Somehow, Dad knew this wasn’t the best way. Seeing who you are tackling might mean that you don’t deliver as devastating a blow as you want, but it also means that you are far less likely to miss the tackle. As an incredibly important bonus, injury is far less likely when your head is up.

God designed us with a yearning to have an impact. We want to make a difference. In our day-to-day lives, this desire for impact needs to be controlled by the Holy Spirit to ensure we have the kind of impact God intends. Scripture teaches us that discipline, self- control, and keeping our eyes on our target (not running aimlessly) help us to avoid missing the mark. When I was managing sales reps for a large pharmaceutical company, I used to tell the reps, “Don’t mistake activity for achievement.”

Oftentimes in the work world we allow ourselves to get very busy with activities that seem necessary but are not actually moving us toward our objectives. Whatever our jobs, seeing what we hit means establishing clear objectives and then aligning our actions with them.

In the Scripture passage from which [our] verse is taken, Paul compares his spiritual life to athletic training. He says that he doesn’t act without clear purpose in mind. We need to be like Paul and know what we are trying to hit spiritually. Putting our heads down and plowing through is our natural instinct, but we may miss God’s objective when we do that. Let’s ask God to give us discipline and self-control.

Let us be imitators of the examples of godly character God has given us in Scripture and in the people around us. I challenge you to read the Gospels to see Jesus’ perfect character. I suggest reading a chapter of the Gospels every day until you’ve read through all of them. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start again. That’s what I do. It keeps the heart and character of Jesus right in front of me. I also encourage you to seek the counsel of a godly mentor in your church. Know what you are aiming for and keep your eyes on your target. You are far more likely to hit it. And you are far less likely to give yourself a spiritual stinger or injure others in your efforts.

You’ve been reading from Always Fall Forward: Life Lessons I’ll Never Forget from “The Coach” by Todd Gerelds. Learn more HERE>>