Friday, February 02, 2007

Faith Matters

Sports has had little impact on my life. It’s not that I dislike sports. I just don’t pay any attention to football, baseball or basketball. I'd rather sit by a rushing Sierra Nevada creek than to play volleyball or golf.

And I probably won’t find out who won the Super Bowl until late Monday evening. I can't even tell you which team is favored to win.

So I wouldn't have found the feature article on Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith from the Miami Herald's on my own initiative. My supervisor handed me the Sacramento Bee sports section this morning and said, "You'll find this interesting."

Sandi's husband is the sports enthusiast her family. I have him to thank for making me aware of these two coaches.

Without Sandi's prompting, I would never have known that the two reigning football coaches in the country are men who place a higher value on their individual relationship with God than worldly coaching techniques.

Although one of these men will go down in history as the first African American NFL coach to win a Super Bowl title, skin color is not what makes Dungy and Smith stand out from other coaches.

These men have nurtured a life-changing relationship with the God of Heaven according to the article.

But the more you learn about these two men, the more it becomes apparent their close friendship stems from something far deeper than race -- their convictions. Both are devout Christians who don't drink or curse.

In my book, it's their apparent hold on the message of the cross that makes these men stand out.

The church of Corinth was one that tried to follow the code of wordly wisdom in their dealing with each other. Division and the creation of sects, placing too much emphasis on human leaders, accepting blatant sin among members of the church and conducting disorderly worship marred the congregation.

The apostle Paul said:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Paul takes the 16 chapters of his Corinthian epistle to explain what the "power of God" means to the Christian. Christians are men and women who place God first in their lives. They have learned to love God with "heart ... soul ... mind" (Matthew 22:37).

This means that Christians place God first in their lives. They "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33a). This means relationships with neighbors, including football players, are always conducted in a Godly manner.

Writer Michelle Kaufman reported that neither drinks or curses, characteristics that the world often lifts high. These character traits are symptoms of something greater. They show that Dungy and Smith have set aside human traits and have replaced them with Godly fruit, as Paul said:

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law" (Galations 5:22-23).

I suspect that these men are strong coaches, men who have learned to use their God-inspired love for their players for good. "Rather than belittle players with profanity-laced tirades on the sidelines, they shoot a stare that delivers the message loud and clear," said Kaufman.

I'm certain Super Bowl XLI will be a unique game. One history-making coach will be the first African American coach to lead his team to the title.

But Dunge and Smith have a higher calling. Each coach is running his personal life like a football game. Paul said: "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it" (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

Both Dungy and Smith are running to obtain "an imperishable crown" at the end of life's race.

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