I’m a would-be sports journalist. I must exercise extreme discipline when writing the morning’s cultural commentary, lest I check ESPN before looking at the day’s news and miss my 6:45 AM deadline. If there were two of me, one of them would want to work for Sports Illustrated.
That confession aside, my purpose today is not to join the chorus of critics in our city who are lambasting the Dallas Cowboys. Missing the playoffs again after another December swoon must be more painful for them than for any of us who watched them. Instead, I’d like to focus on two life principles gained from the season now ended.
Lesson #1: It’s not how you begin, but how you finish. Twice in the Cowboys’ 51-year history, the team lost a fourth quarter lead of more than 10 points. This year’s team experienced such gut-wrenching losses three times. Win two of those and they’re in the playoffs. Win one of those (the earlier loss to the Giants), and Sunday’s game would have been meaningless.
I’m not criticizing the team—they wanted to win the games more than we did. They didn’t stop competing; they just stopped playing as well. The same can happen to any of us. Paul could say, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Our Kingdom service is not done until the King calls us home.
Lesson #2: One player can’t win a game. Tony Romo will be criticized again this year for failing to lead his team to a Super Bowl. However, he just finished what is probably his best season, with 4,184 yards passing, 31 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions, and the best passer rating (102.5) of his career. He played through a fractured rib, punctured lung, and hand so bruised it required a pain-killing injection before Sunday’s game began. When there are 22 players on the field, no matter how tough one of them is or how well he plays, he can’t win the game by himself.
Paul made the same point: “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). Some of us are hands, others are feet; some are eyes while others are ears (vs. 15-17). Which of these are you willing to lose today?
If I do my job in the Kingdom this year, and you do yours, together we will join the Spirit in fulfilling our Father’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” for our lives (Romans 12:2). God measures success by obedience.
Paul advised his son in the faith, “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules” (2 Timothy 2:5). We learned two of them this year. Which is most relevant for you today?