Training Table — Pro Football (Week 9)

Monday

“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel 12:3

What Are You Teaching?

When you’re not the real thing, people know you’re not the real thing. The beginning of the 2012 NFL season will forever be marked/marred by its officiating—how replacement officials with little experience were called up to replace the NFL’s regular officials because of the officiating lockout. Coaches, players, media and fans could tell, by the replacement officials’ actions, that they weren’t adequately prepared for the NFL level.

Take the infamous Packers/Seahawks game, for example, and the replay we’ve seen thousands of times. By the referees’ actions, everyone could tell they weren’t the real thing. That’s not their fault. They never claimed to be. They were simply filling a hole. But the point is that the replacement officials’ actions cast a negative light on the NFL.

I want to be the real thing when it comes to my faith. I want what I believe to be backed up by action. In a recent sermon, well-known teacher and pastor of The Village Church, Matt Chandler said: “By your life and your actions, you are teaching people what you believe about God.”

I want my actions to cast a positive light on God, and I want my actions to teach people what I believe about God.

— Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum

Tuesday

“Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city.” Acts 14:19-20

Stoned and Scarred

There was only one thing worse than the Thursday night game in Week 3, a 36-7 thrashing by the New York Giants over the Carolina Panthers, and that was Cam Newton’s reaction to it.

After his third interception of the game, he sat alone with a towel over his head. Panther wide receiver Steve Smith told Newton to stand on the sideline with the rest of his teammates. When Newton spoke to the media after the game, he pathetically pouted. Smith publicly called Newton out again.

One thing I like about Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is that he rarely hangs his head. Right after he throws an interception, he has seemingly already forgotten about it. He has a maturity about him that shows he is capable of leading a franchise.

I think my favorite “manly” story in the Bible is in Acts 14—when Paul is stoned, dragged out of the city, and proceeds to march right back into the city. He could have been overcome with fear. He could have been nursing his wounds. He could have been pouting.

But Paul, I think, had a few things ingrained deep in his mindset that allowed him to act and respond the way he did. He 1) Had a mission that trumped his emotion, 2) Grasped a heavenly home that trumped his earthly home, and 3) Understood that leadership meant thinking outside himself and his own pain.

— Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum

Wednesday

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” John 6:35

Cracked

I’m not sure if people realized New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton’s value before this season, or the value of a head coach in general, for that matter.

Sure, I think people thought the Saints may struggle this year because of their offseason turmoil, but at the end of the day, Drew Brees is still Drew Brees. I thought that all Sean Payton built could surely sustain itself for one year without him. But after a horrific start to the season, perhaps I was wrong. At this pace, the Saints won’t even finish .500 this year. At this pace (this was written after an 0-4 start) they may not even win a game. When the top of the Saints’ pyramid fell, it cracked everything else on the way down. Sean Payton’s absence affected everything.

I want God to be at the top of my pyramid, because, when He’s not, I’ve noticed that it affects everything else in my life. It all starts to crack. My perspective gets out of whack. I start losing. We were born as fallen, spiritual beings—with a God-shaped hole in our hearts that only God can fill—and when we don’t draw near to Him to fill it, it affects everything.

—Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum

Thursday

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Matthew 5:13

Caterpillars Aren’t Evil

I remember one of my old bosses from college calling me into his office at the end of the school year, just days before being dismissed for summer vacation. His name was Chad, and he was wiser than 50 of me.

“Stephen,” he said to me, “When you come back to school next fall, I want you to be a different person.” He explained to me that, as Christians, we should always be changing. We should always be growing, learning. One month from now, I shouldn’t be the same person. One year from now, I shouldn’t be the same person.

Change doesn’t always mean there is something wrong. Does a caterpillar become a butterfly because being a caterpillar is wrong? No, a caterpillar grows into a butterfly. Change is positive growth. When we grow, we change. And change is good.

One of my favorite teachers, Matt Chandler, says this about being “salt of the earth,” as the Bible talks about: “It’s a seriousness about holiness that marks our lives with continual and habitual confession and repentance.”

One of the main storylines entering the 2012 NFL season, obviously, was Peyton Manning. His Week 1 victory landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated and made the nation question whether the old Peyton Manning had officially returned.

I liked what Peyton said after the game. He talked about how he still had a long way to go, how he was still learning about the team and re-adjusting to the game. Yes, it was a great win. But he still needed to grow as a quarterback. He still needed to change. And so do we. Caterpillars aren’t evil. Butterflies are just better.

— Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum

Friday

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” II Timothy 1:7

A Distracted Mind

As always, the Philadelphia Eagles were a primary storyline entering the 2012 season. Will quarterback Michael Vick stay healthy? Will the Eagles live up to the infamous “Dream Team” comments made a year ago? Can they win a Super Bowl? Will they even make the playoffs?

Three games into the season, Vick had turned the ball over nine times, which resulted in a national media storm questioning whether Vick and the Eagles have what it takes to live up to expectations.

I talked to someone the other day who believed Vick’s struggles were the result of mental exhaustion. My friend’s theory was that Vick had too much on his mind, and, as a result, he was plying with fear and timidity. He was staying in the pocket. He was throwing the ball away. He wasn’t himsef. I don’t know if I agree or not. I’ve watched every Eagles game and just felt like the Eagles’ offensive line was making Vick’s job extremely difficult. But I do think my friend had a point that is also applicable to every day life: a crowded mind robs power.

Too often, the things of this world bring us down, making us fearful and timid. The Spirit of God, however, “does not make us timid, but gives power, love and self-discipline.” A crowded mind robs us of power. Relying on God, focusing on the eternal, walking in the Spirit, gives power.

— Stephen Copeland, Sports Spectrum

Weekender

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12

Going Long

Read Matthew 5:11-12 and mediate on what it says about people who go through trials because of their faith. Is this you? What does this promise say? Remember, this life is only temporary. Our life in Heaven is eternal.

Uncommon Challenge