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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Football, Testing, and Faith

My football coach in my first three years of high school lost his job before my final year. He was a good man who had shown interest in me and had always encouraged me. But in my junior year, I think our record was 2-9, and so he lost his job. Another coach was hired that I also knew who had seen a lot of success coaching in a larger school in the state. He was from my hometown. He had played football with my dad in high school and then went on to play for the University of Kentucky. His coaching style was quite different to say the least. He also paid some attention to me, but I wouldn’t have called it “encouragement.”

Still we were excited. We dared hope this coach might help us be more successful. I wondered what it would be like to play in the state finals because he had had that sort of success in the past. We all lifted weights that summer more than we ever had. We went for a 1-week football camp offsite, which we had never done. Over the course of that camp the coaches liked the way I “looked” on defense and moved me from defensive end to middle linebacker.

I will never forget our first game. It was against Elkhorn City. We lost 40-0. We were humiliated. I played terrible. I was not nearly strong enough to play the position I was in. When we watched the game film a couple of days later, I was further humiliated as the coach played and replayed their offensive lineman making me look ridiculous. It was my last experience playing middle linebacker.

I wasn’t the only reason we lost. One thing that had contributed significantly to our poor play was that we hadn’t done any full contact practices in pads. We hadn’t been tested. Our first real test came in that game and it revealed we were not ready. The coach remedied the problem immediately and practices got a lot less “comfortable.” We began to improve and salvaged a respectable season, but we didn’t even make the playoffs, let alone the state final.

Facing hardship by definition is not easy and being tested is rarely any fun. However, there’s no way to make progress in almost any endeavor without these. Making progress in following Jesus is no different. Sunday at Bethany Place we will examine this idea that is illustrated all over the bible from Revelation 2:8-11. I’m calling the message The Upside of Hardship. It’s the second in our series called, Ear Training. You can see the scripture and the message outline below.

The Upside of Hardship

Revelation 2:8-11
Ear Training: Part 2

1.    Lean in to hardship through worship
Revelation 2:8 (ESV) “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.

2.    Value what suffering can accomplish

Revelation 2:9-10a (ESV)
“ ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.

3.    Aim at the ultimate goal

Revelation 2:10b-11 (ESV)
Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’

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