Let me illustrate. When I played football as a kid, there was never an argument over whether or not someone caught the ball. We all knew what a catch was. Simple. He either caught it or he didn’t. No middle of the road, no guesses.
Well, the NFL doesn’t agree. Today no one seems to know what a catch is.
Just recently in a huge game between the New England Patriots and the Pittsburgh Steelers there was just such a play with 28 seconds left on the clock. The Pittsburgh receiver made a catch just over the goal line for the game-winning score.
Oh. But it was ruled a non-catch.
I will not take the time to explain the various nuances of a catch in the NFL, but most of us that day simply assumed he caught the ball. And it gets even odder. Later a spokesman for the NFL referred to the non-catch as a catch, only it wound up being a non-catch. Go figure.
Seems to me there was a time when we all knew what a “catch” was. Somehow over the years a catch was no longer a catch. Instead, it all has become incredibly and confusingly complicated.
Isn’t that what we do on a regular basis in many areas of life?
Let’s go a step farther and see how we tend to make the Bible more complicated than it really is.
Think of all the confusion around some of the words and topics in the Bible over the last couple of decades.
Just a few short years ago, no one was confused over the meaning of gender. Male and female. As soon as a baby was born, we all knew whether it was a boy or a girl. Now some want to wait until the child grows and decides which gender it chooses to be. Now that’s confusing.
Marriage is another word. Growing up there were no discussions as to what it meant.
From the time of Adam and Eve all the way through most of the 20th century, no confusion. It was always between a man and a woman. Now marriage has taken on new meanings. In fact, some have even expressed a desire to marry their computer.
I guess because they spend so much time with it.
One more example. In Exodus 20 Moses wrote that we should follow the example of God who “worked”–that is, created the earth and all that is in it over a period of six days. Pretty clear. Work six days, and then take a day off.
Not so fast. Along come some scholars to muddy the waters. All of a sudden Moses didn’t mean six days as you and I understand six days. Then why did he say six days? Now I’m confused.
Why can’t I pick up my Bible, start in Genesis 1 and read it as a ten year old? My guess is if you had a ten year old read Genesis 1 and Exodus 20 and then gave a pop quiz asking how many days it took God to create the earth, the answer would be six days…without hesitation.
Those two chapters are not complicated unless you want them to be. All the words are rather clear, that is, unless you choose otherwise.
For me, I am sticking with the simple and obvious.
And yes, I may be biased, but in that particular game, the catch was a catch!
John Lynch is a former NFL football player. But let’s start at the beginning of his story. Lynch went to Stanford University to play football as a quarterback. However, he never made it onto the field for the first two years.
After his sophomore year the coach suggested that he move to free safety, a position on the defense. But still he rarely played. He got on the field only about thirty percent of the time.
Since he was also gifted at baseball, Lynch decided to go pro and signed a contract with a professional baseball team, the Florida Marlins.
This happened at the same time Stanford got a new football coach, Bill Walsh.
Coach Walsh got wind of his decision to leave and called him into the office. Walsh had just spent hours reviewing the team’s game films and was convinced that Lynch was the best defensive player Stanford had. That day Walsh persuaded Lynch to stick with football.
As they say, “the rest is history.” Lynch went on to play in the NFL and become a star player for many years. Of course, that doesn’t mean his path to stardom was easy.
In his second year in the pros he did not even know if he would make the team.
Once again, a new coach arrived in town and saw his potential.
John Lynch repeatedly discovered the power of others. His rise to fame may never have happened without the influence of others, particularly those 2 coaches.
In the Bible it’s rather amazing that one day Jesus looked at a fisherman named Peter and saw incredible potential. And then He invited Peter to join His team. He became one of the 12 disciples, wrote 1 & 2 Peter, and became one of the pillars of the early church.
Later the apostle Paul met a young man, Timothy, and invited him along to participate in the ministry. Timothy became Paul’s ministry assistant and the pastor of the church at Ephesus.
Sometimes we simply need the right people around us. People who see potential in us and believe in us.
You can’t always control who is in your life, but you can pray that God would send the right people into your life.
So that you too can experience the power of others!
It sounds contradictory. It seems like a dilemma.
In the sports world we define so many great athletes and coaches not only by wins & losses, but also by championships.
Can you imagine being a football coach who takes your team to the super Bowl 4 years in a row and you are still labeled as a loser by many only because you didn’t walk away with the trophy? It happened to Marv Levy as coach of the Buffalo Bills. In one of those games, the outcome would have been a win if a field goal kick had been just 2 feet in the other direction.
Bud Grant was the coach of the Minnesota Vikings who also lost 4 Super Bowls. Was he a loser?
Many great coaches have only gone to the Super Bowl once. Because they walked away with the trophy that one time, we label them as winners.
But think about it. Do you realize how hard it is to get the Super Bowl even once? How about taking your team four times? Very few coaches have ever done that. So are they losers? I would say not.
In Hebrews 11, there is a list we often refer to as God’s Hall of Fame. In verses 36-39 there are a group of people who aren’t even named. They were virtual unknowns who never saw their reward on earth. No recognition, no pats on the back, no rewards. In fact, the polar opposite. But God was watching, and eventually God made it right. In verse 40, it says “God provided something better…”
And today while many still consider Marv Levy and Bud Grant losers, they did get elected to the Football Hall of Fame. Because there are those who recognize their true value as winners.
Guess what? You may be smart, loaded with talent, and loaded with skill. But the circumstances around you just are not in your favor. You may feel like you are losing your own personal “Super Bowl”. But you are not a loser. Keep on keeping on and stay in the game. God is keeping score.
July 1 is a big day in sports since many NBA (National Basketball Association) players become free agents. Which means they are looking for contracts with sweet deals and lots of money. Some have landed huge contracts, including guys you have never heard of.
I even mentioned to Carol that the amount of money is unreal when compared to some of the contracts in the NFL (National Football League), and football is by far a more popular and lucrative sport in this country.
And wouldn’t you know it?
NFL players have noticed and begun to compare. Now their huge contracts are considered peanuts to some of the newer ones in the NBA.
Before July 1 the NFL players considered themselves winners. Now they are losers. That’s what comparing does.
There is always someone who is faster, smarter, richer, prettier, talenter–OK, I made up that last word, but you get the picture.
One NFL player even tweeted that he had picked the wrong sport.
And you will do the same thing. You will think, “I should have chosen……….as my career.”
The fact is when you compare, you will never measure up.
No wonder the Bible warns against comparing. “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12, ESV).
No wonder depression is at an all time high. We are comparing our lives with the highlight reels of our friends and neighbors on Facebook, Twitter, or in life in general. It may happen in sports July 1, but it invades our lives when someone we know gets married, gets a new car, lands a new job, or takes an exotic vacation.
And we can’t catch a break. Or so it seems.
On June 30 NFL players went to bed as winners; when they went to bed on July 1, they felt like losers.
Avoid the trap. Avoid comparison or you too will go to bed at night feeling like a loser.
Mark is best known for being the writer of the Gospel of Mark. That in itself would put him in the winner’s circle. Can you imagine being one of forty different authors whom God chose to write the Bible? I cannot even imagine. What an honor. What a privilege. What a WIN!
Winning is fun. Winning alleviates a lot of pain. It makes you forget about your losses.
But Mark didn’t start out in the winner’s circle.
Actually he started out in the loser’s circle.
We first meet Mark in Acts 12:12 when the church met in his mother’s home. Mark must have showed some promise because when Paul and Barnabas set out on their first missionary journey, Mark accompanied them. It didn’t last long, however. For whatever reason Mark left and went home (Acts 13:13).
A few years later when Paul and Barnabas set out on another journey, Barnabas was ready to give Mark another chance. But Paul was not so keen on the idea. Perhaps he thought Mark was lazy, uncommitted, or lacked the necessary skills. He may not have been up to the travel physically. We don’t know.
Although I don’t know how Mark felt, I know to be rejected by Paul had to hurt deeply. Rejection is never easy, but to be rejected by one of your heros multiplies the pain.
A sharp disagreement ensued, and Barnabas wound up leaving Paul and sailing to Cyprus with Mark. Evidently it got pretty heated. “And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.’ 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus” (Acts 15:36-39 ESV). Paul is vehemently saying, “I don’t want him on my team.” OUCH!
Towards the end of Paul’s life he writes to Timothy and asks him to bring Mark with him. In 2 Timothy 4:11 he says, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.”
As you can see, Mark is now considered valuable to the apostle Paul. I’d call that a win.
Clearly there were some hard feelings earlier, but these two men overcame those and were once again a team.
You need to understand Paul’s high estimation of Mark at this point. He is a lonely man since everyone but Luke has left him. To consider Mark very useful at this point says a lot about Mark. This was the guy who bailed earlier. Paul was not afraid of that now. Obviously Mark had grown personally over the years, and Paul noticed. Quite possibly Barnabas, Mark’s older cousin, was a huge inspiration to Mark’s personal development.
What did Mark do? What can we do in order to arrive in the winner’s circle?
1. Never give up on yourself.
There are only 32 NFL head coaches. It’s hard to believe you can actually make it into that elite group and be considered a loser. But some are. That’s how hard life can be.
One reason I love football is that there are so many parallels to life within the sport. For one, attitude plays such a huge role among NFL coaches. They all experience losing. Yet they all act like winners. How? Bob LaMonte, a sports agent who works with NFL coaches, said, “When I talk to a winning coach on Monday morning, I often detect that his mood isn’t much different than that of a losing coach.”
For another, it’s a game of second chances. As I write this the Seattle Seahawks have just won the Super Bowl. The coach is Pete Carroll. Several years ago Pete coached the New York Jets and totally bombed out. He was criticized for his coaching skills. When he returned to the NFL as the Seahawks coach, he was criticized for his drafting skills. In fact, some said the 2012 draft proved he couldn’t coach. Needless to say, it was in that draft that he chose Russell Wilson, the current starting quarterback, along with a few others who were on the roster of the Super Bowl winning team.
Pete Carroll never gave up on himself.
Neither can you.
2. Surround yourself with people who have your back. You need at least one person who is going to hang with you and encourage you. For Mark it was Barnabas. Who is going to be your cheerleader? Who is going to go through the tough spots with you. Oprah once said, “Everyone wants to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.”
How often do think about the company you keep? How often do you think of the influence they are having in your life? Are the people in your life the ones who will help you get to the winner’s circle?
Some are with you only because it’s convenient.
3. Add value to others. Near the end of his life Paul said Mark was helpful to his ministry. That is, Mark brought something to the table. Not only was Mark valuable to Paul, but Mark also spent time with Peter, another of the apostles (1 Peter 5:13). And we would all admit that the Gospel of Mark has added tremendous value over the years to millions of people.
Think of several ways you can add value to someone: Have a cup of coffee with someone and offer encouragement, spend time with someone, run an errand, etc. You could give someone you know a book on marriage, finances, ….Abraham Lincoln said, “The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.” The list is endless. Start today adding value to others.
Had Mark given up, Paul and Peter would have lost out. The world would have lost out. If you allow failure to define you as a loser, you will never make it to the winner’s circle.
The NFL has had a labor dispute with the refs since before the season began. And yes, there were some horrible calls by the replacement refs. However, the NFL maintained that the integrity of the game was not being compromised, and the bad calls were not changing the outcome of the games.
Then it happened! Monday night as Savannah and I were watching the Green Bay Packers take on the Seattle Seahawks the unthinkable transpired right before our eyes on the last play of the game.
At that point Green Bay was leading by a score of 12-7. Seattle’s only hope with just seconds remaining was a hail mary to the end zone. Not only did a Seahawk receiver push a Green Bay player to the ground, he never caught the ball. Another defensive player for Green Bay did. No problem. The Seattle receiver simply put his hands on the ball and the ref called it a touchdown.
Now without going into all the rules, everyone in America knew it was an interception and not a touchdown. So Seattle escapes with a win, and Green Bay is delirious as they fly home with a loss in a game they actually won.
It finally happened. On Monday Night Football! A bad call by the replacement refs changed the outcome of a game. As upset as Savannah and I were (we were actually pulling for Seattle) at the call, I told her, “The good thing about that call is the NFL and the refs will make a deal this week.
And they have. But why did they wait until the last minute? Why did they wait until the unthinkable happened?
It got really bad. Isn’t that how life is? We wait, we procrastinate, we hope things will not deteriorate, we assume the bottom will not fall out,….but it does. Yet we wait.
So while we were all screaming at our TV sets, how many of us were screaming at ourselves? After all, some of us no doubt were right in the middle of waiting…just like the NFL. And guess what? Things will probably get worse before they get better, just like the replacement refs.
We wait until a bill is overdue that we get serious about our finances.
We keep an employee on the payroll who has a bad attitude, hoping he will change, and he doesn’t and the company is hurt.
We ignore the leak in the roof since it is only a small drip right now.
We leave the pitcher in the game for just one more out.
We even fail to change lanes for the upcoming exit until we are forced to cut someone off.
So after all the fallout in the NFL and even in our own lives we continue to be plagued by waiting.
After all the lessons from life, Why do we continue to wait until the last minute?