Thursday, September 24, 2009

Biblical Lessons from observations of Football

So I am sitting here and watching the Ole Miss vs South Carolina game, and South Carolina just tied it up with a 20 something yard field goal. Now of course, you know I'll be biased in my support here... but in observations, not so much. As the teams ran of the field I was struck by the reaction of the coaches... The Rebels run off the field at the end of the play, after South Carolina has just tied up the game, and Coach Nutt was cheering them on by smiling and patting them on that back, telling them "good job." Coach Spurrior (sp?), however, was walking away from his team shaking his head as if he was frustrated when his team just kicked a field goal to tie the game (it may be 3-3, but at least it wasn't 3-0 anymore!).

Their difference in reactions really made me think about two particular topics, Encouragement and Leadership. Now personally... I love encouragment... it's one of the subjects I always like to present about to RA's. I think encouragement should be a part of daily life, and more than anything I think being an Encourager is an essential component of being a Leader. As I think of these two words... so many things come to mind, but to keep it biblical, I think I'll use this observation to discuss my opinion of the best and worst leaders in the bible.

My pick for Best leader of the bible, isn't Jesus... it's Nehemiah. If you haven't read his book... I highly encourage you to. Nehemiah was a really smart guy... a realistic and practical leader that gave everyone a responsibility and supported his people through physical and emotional support as well as prayer during their major task of building a wall around the city of Jerusalem. I seriously think I could write a book about this guy... when reading Nehemiah I wrote so many notes about this his leadership skills that I'll only hit the major highlights of his career here...

  • Nehemiah prayed for His people (Nehemiah 1:5-11)
  • Nehemiah was reasonable and logical in his requests... (Nehemiah 2: 7-8)
  • When he was not sure who to turn to, Nehemiah sought guidance from his spiritual leaders. (Nehemiah 3:1)
  • Nehemiah knew they policies of his people, faith, and community... and he did not hesitate to keep them accountable for those rules. (Nehemiah 5: 6-8)
  • Nehemiah took care of his neighbors... they looked out for each other. I think that Nehemiah formed the world's first neighborhood watch group! (" ... Do not let the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot; and while they stand guard, let them shut and bar the doors; and appoint guards form among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, one at his watch station and another in front of his own house." Nehemiah 7: 3)

Major lessons learned from Nehemiah:

  1. God is gracious enough to forgive us, we should be humble enough to ask for it.

"We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You have commanded Your servant Moses... O Lord, I pray, please let your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man." (Nehemiah 1:7-11)

2. Despite criticism - Follow your goal.

"... they laughed at us and despised us, and said, 'What is this thing that you are doing?'... So I answered them, and said to them 'The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build..." (Nehemiah 2: 19-20)

3. Cooperation is key to getting ANY goal accomplished! Everyone has something to contribute to the common goal!


4. Your efforts as a team will not always be recognized or respected by others (4:2-3), but don't let that keep you from completing and protecting your goal. (Nehemiah 4:19-23)

5. Do not abuse your power of leadership - for it is given by God, not earned by you. (Nehemiah 5: 14-15)

6. Don't assume you (as the leader) know everything.

" Now on the second day the heads of the fathers' houses of all of the people, with the priests and Levites, were gathered to Ezra the scribe, in order to understand the words of the Law." (Nehemiah 8:13)

7. Learn lessons from other's experience... don't remake their mistakes.

"Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers." (Nehemiah 9:3)

8. Celebrate and show thanks (to God) for your accomplishments... both individually and as a team.

" Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings and singing, with cymbals and stringed instruments and harps." (Nehemiah 12: 27)


My pick for the worst leader is such an easy choice... Saul, you know... the king that let a little kid kill the giant because he wasn't willing to!! I think that one of the most important rules that a leader should follow is that they should never ask their people (whether that's staff, students, whatever you call them) to do things that the leader themself is not willing to do. Can you imagine the scene that day on the battlefield?? the Israelite army on one side, Philistines on the other...and this realy big dude... like the biggest defensive lineman you have ever seen, walks out in front of his team and starts trash talking your team... not just one Saturday in the Fall, but 40 days in row... morning and night!! And little David... he's like, the punter... heck, the water boy in comparison to Goliath (if you're following my football analogy here) but he's the one who is willing to step up and come to the line of scrimmage?! Not only did he step up... but he won! Now of course... as the story goes on... we see that Saul, on multiple occasions, tries to kill David because he is resentful (1Samuel 18: 8-9). Why was he resentful... well, let's just think that a bunch of ladies singing this probably ticked him off a bit:
"Saul has slain his thousands,
And David his ten thousands" (1 Samuel 18: 7)

Anyways... to make a really long story short (13 chapters to be exact) Saul continually tries to kill David, the majority of Saul's army begins to follow and defend David, and Saul eventually committed suicide after being wounded.

Moral of the Saul/David story: David exemplified leadership by being willing to step out and do what others were not for the sake of his team. By doing that (and succeeding, I'm sure the story would have turned out different if God didn't show up to direct those stones), he gained the respect and support of the entire Israelite team... and went on to be one of the most identifiable kings in the bible (not to mention an ancestor of Jesus!).

So... the game is over now, and Ole Miss lost... and though I'm sad for my team, they're still my team. They will learn from what they did wrong during the game... and practice for days so that they don't make the same mistakes next game. We can easily carry that (and all the lessons from Nehemiah) into our daily lives...

Dear God,
Please help me to be a leader that would:
honor You, serve You, and be a good example for You... every day.

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