Football season is still going strong in the college and professional ranks, but it’s been over for some time now for my son Royce’s 5th/6th grade team. Since he played center, I helped out a little bit coaching our linemen. Our head line coach was a guy named Stacy Peterson. Even though I’d gone to high school with Stacy and had loosely known him for years, we’d always run in different circles and had never done any one-on-on talking. So I was glad to get to know him better over the course of the season. Trust me, the guy knows a thing or two about being a lineman. Of course, that didn’t surprise me. After all, he did play college ball.
As I look back over our season, the one thing that stands out to me the most about Stacy is a certain coaching philosophy that he had. It went as follows: If you aren’t getting better by doing a drill, shut it down and do another drill that allows you to get better. For example, let’s say that our linemen were sleepwalking their way through a drill involving the blocking sleds. After a rebuke or two, Stacy would finally say something like, “Okay, we’re not getting better here. Let’s set up some cones and work on our footwork.” If all else failed and he was out of options for alternative drills, he’d say, “Well, if we can’t get better by doing drills, we can at least get in better shape by running. So start running and I’ll tell you when to stop.” The point is that Stacy was all about making practice time efficient and productive. His time was too valuable for anything less. If a ten-minute span went by in which our players weren’t a little better at football than they had been the previous ten minutes, he saw that as ten minutes wasted.
I’ve been a pastor for over nineteen years now, and so I speak with some expertise when I say that a lot of Christians sleepwalk their way through serving Christ and, thus, never get much better at it. They aren’t any more involved at church than they were five years ago. They don’t know much more Bible than they did ten years ago. They spend the same amount of time in prayer, if not less, as they did two years ago. They witness to the same number of people they always have: none. They aren’t giving an increased amount of money to church or parachurch ministries. You get the idea. These Christians are doing their “drilling” for Jesus, but somehow all of it isn’t making them better at serving Him. Call them casual. Call them comfortable. Call them satisfied. Call them apathetic. Call them disengaged. But whatever you call them, don’t call them improving.
I realize that this post might work better as one for New Year’s Day, but for some reason the Lord burdened me to write it today, here toward the end of November. So tell me Christian, does it have your name on it? Where are you right now in your service to Christ? Are you on fire for Him? Is your service to Him growing? Are you excited about what He is doing through you to affect the lives of others? Or is your service stagnated and stationary? Have you plateaued? Even worse, are you backslidden?
If you have to admit that you currently aren’t getting better at serving Christ, let me encourage you to apply Stacy’s coaching philosophy to your life. Step out in faith and try something new for Jesus. Volunteer to teach a Sunday School class. Take up the challenge of reading the Bible through in a year. Get a notebook and start a prayer journal in which you write down not only your daily prayer requests but also how you see God answer them. Muster up the courage (coupled with tact) and witness to a friend, a neighbor, a coworker, or a family member. With the Christmas season upon us, either increase your giving to your local church or make a one-time gift to a Christian organization that can surely use it. Even if you can’t give financially, give of your time or your other resources. Find a way. Make it happen. Whatever you do, don’t keep halfheartedly doing your same old “drills” over and over again and expecting different results.
In 1 Corinthians 15:58, the apostle Paul encourages Christians to always be “abounding in the work of the Lord.” That word “abounding” has always stood out to me in that verse. There is such a vibrancy to it, such a vitality. It calls to my mind Olympic athletes bounding down a track-and-field event, muscles rippling, functioning in perfect harmony and form as they power the athletes along. But how does an athlete reach such an impressive state of performance in his field? I’ll tell you, with each training drill and exercise, he gets better. Every day, every week, every month, every year, he just keeps on getting better until he finally reaches that idealized state the world sees on television. You see, Christian, Stacy’s philosophy will work in terms of spiritual drills just as well as it works in terms of football ones. We simply have to make the commitment to keep constantly getting better. And what I’m asking today is, How are you doing on that?