National Champions

This time next week we’ll have new college football national champions–the Oregon Ducks or the Ohio State Buckeyes.

As the Southern saying goes, I don’t have a dog in this hunt (or a duck or a buckeye!). But I almost did.

I’m an Auburn fan and we were in the running for a little while this season. But then we started shooting ourselves in the foot. Or the wheels fell off the wagon. Any one of several Southern sayings could be used to describe our demise.

But four years ago, we were the national champions. And before that season started, I’m not even sure we were ranked in the top 25! It was almost like we were ‘destined’ to come out on top that year. And a lot of the games we played were excruciatingly close, with the lead changing a few times. Some of them were more like miracles than “W’s” in my opinion.

I’ve thought a few times about how much fun it would be to go back and watch the games from that season, in order, without looking up the final score. To watch them again, knowing in advance that after all was said and done, we were the champions.

I’ve also wondered about what it would have been like if the coach had told the players before that season ever began that they would be the national champions.

What if he told them that they wouldn’t have a perfect season—that there would be some very difficult quarters, halves, and games.

That they would have to play catch-up a lot.

That there would be injuries: some game-ending, some season-ending, some career-ending.

That some players would be benched because of bad behavior or poor attitude.

That the media would try to discredit some of them and divide them as a team.

But that some of players would SHINE.

In fact, some who didn’t even know the depth of their ability would be called on to do things they didn’t even know they were capable of.

And some would go on to win national awards and become team heroes.

And that because of all their efforts, the team would be the national champions and the team’s fan base would grow exponentially.

I wonder how the players would have responded.

How would you have responded?

I hope I still would have given my best—no matter my position or rank or ability or lack thereof. I hope I would have faced each game as a potential opportunity for me to be given a chance to SHINE—to become a team hero.

Being told the final outcome of the season wouldn’t have made the games less intense, less exciting. There still would have been injuries and substitutions and benched players and losses and awards and media attention—good and bad.

I think knowing in advance that the trophy was won would have given me more reason to do my best, every play of every game—to be a good example of a team player on a championship team. To play a clean game, but a fierce one.

I think I would have enjoyed a freedom to play with my whole heart out on the field, to show how ‘teamwork’ really works, to share what ‘all in’ is all about.

In case you haven’t guessed, I’m no longer talking about football. I’m talking about life—the life of those who follow Jesus.

God’s word tells us that at the end of ‘time’ as we know it, good triumphs over evil. Victory belongs to our God. And we will reign with Him forever.

But for now, we live in a war zone—and I’m not talking about the wars you hear about on the news. I’m talking about the invisible war. The spiritual war between darkness and light. We all have a part to play in this war. We all have battles to fight. Every day.

But we all have a choice.

We can play around, fighting half-heartedly and conserving our energy and emotion.

We can quit and let a substitute take our place while we take a break and wait for the game to end.

We can even act inappropriately and get benched by the Coach and have to sit on the sidelines the rest of the game.

Or every day we can suit up—put on our spiritual armor and pray and prepare and fight with our whole heart.

And if we happen to win any awards for being a team hero, it will be an honor to lay them down at Jesus’ feet during the big celebration—after the clock runs out.

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