There are two things every team must have to make it until the end; endurance and encouragement.
We are 3-0. That means every season goal that we have set before us is still in tact. You control your own destiny. We are not depending on “this one to beat that one.” You take care of business and you can win a region championship. That begins tonight. You take care of business, we make the playoff. You take care of business and we advance, and advance, and advance and it gets really exciting.
But no one will be crowned region champion at 3-0. No one has ever made the playoffs at 3-0. No one has ever made it to the dome and played for a state championship at 3-0. No one has ever been crowned state champion at 3-0.
To achieve your goals you have to figure out how to do what you’ve been doing all the way to the end – and that’s a long, long way from here. This is September. Game 4. Game 10 is a long way away. November and December are a long time from now.
You’re going to get tired. You will get weary. You will want to let up. It is very difficult to keep this level of intensity for a long season.
Commitment is like that. You are excited in the beginning. When you envision what could be you are all in. And then comes the grind. It is true of football. It will also be true in marriage, in parenting, in relationships, in recovery, in business . . . Most of the things that really matter are things that it can be said that it is not how you start, but how you finish.
When you feel like letting down you will need endurance. You will need something to keep you going intensely to the end. That something is endurance.
And somewhere along the way something will go wrong. No one ever had a perfect season because everything was perfect. At some point we will face adversity and you will become discouraged. You will begin to lose heart. There will be something in you that wants to give up. It will threaten to drain your joy. It will test your resolve.
It may be in the middle of the game tonight. It may be the middle of the week, next week. It may be a month from now, but it will take something out of you. That is what it means to be discouraged. Courage is removed from you. You don’t want to go on.
In that moment you need to be encouraged. To encourage means to put courage in someone. It will remind you of your why. It will help strengthen your resolve. That’s what encouragement does. Encouragement replenishes lost courage.
Where does that endurance and encouragement come from? The Bible says in Romans 15:5 that God is the God of these very things.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you . . .Romans 15:5a
There is no question as to who God is. The only question is who we are.
There is no question what God does. The only question is what we will do.
There is no question what God gives. The Bible says in Romans 15:5 that He will “grant you.” The question is as to whether or not you will believe it, receive it, and apply it.
What would it look like for us as a team to believe, receive, and apply the endurance and encouragement of God. The passage goes on to explain.
“May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.Romans 15:5-6
Interwoven in the explanation is an illustration. If you know anything about music you may be familiar with the word harmony. “You live in such harmony with one another.” Harmony is another line of sound added to the melody. The melody is the main song. The melody is the main notes.
Harmony is other voices added. Harmony sings the same song, but different notes. The harmony is other voices and sounds that add the highs and the lows.
The passage also uses the word accord. “In accord with Christ Jesus.” Accord speaks to the volume of the harmony. Accord speaks of the clear, rich sound that takes place when things come together. Accord is that part of a song that explodes and captures you.
This is not a perfect illustration of the concept, but it helps make the point. In the following commercial, everything in a popular song is stripped away, down to one voice singing the melody. And then, in the end, the the rest of the sound, the harmonies are added and the song explodes in accord.
That together you may with ONE VOICE glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.Romans 15:6b
I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to a concert that featured a symphony orchestra. Even if you don’t like classical music, you must go at least once. It is the greatest sound you can possibly experience. If you can hear, an orchestra helps you appreciate why God gave you ears. To hear master instrumentalists performing an amazing piece of music gives the ear all it was designed for by the Creator.
But the beginning is confusing. It is irritating. It is awful.
For about 10-15 minutes everyone is doing their own thing. They are tuning up and practicing. It sounds like total chaos. Here is a sample.
But then the conductor takes the stand. He raises his baton and every instrument is brought silent. There is this pause. He looks over the 30, 40, 50 players to make sure that they are all ready. They tune in to him. And then he moves the baton and wow – it all comes together.
The result is a rich, deep, full sound. The result is an iconic piece of music. The result of it all coming together is masterful.
I hope we have a perfect season as far as records go, but I promise you, this will not be a perfect season. No one ever had a perfect season because it was a perfect season.
You will tire of trying to carry the intensity long-term. You will need endurance in that moment. There will be adversity. It will discourage you. It will take something out of you. You will need to be encouraged. You are going to have to seek out someone who can put things back in.
But when those times come, I can tell you what won’t work. Everyone doing their own thing, won’t work. Allowing factions to develop on the team, won’t work. If competing personalities dominate the team, it won’t work. Allowing pettiness or laziness or selfishness to creep in, won’t work. Pointing fingers won’t work. Quitting won’t work. Losing focus won’t work.
If everyone starts doing their own thing, this team will descend into chaos and we will not only lose games, but we will lose the opportunity to achieve our goals.
Live in harmony with one another. Don’t make it about yourself. Be humble. Be encouraging. See the big picture, not the moment. Win the season, not the argument. Live in harmony with one another.
Look to your leaders. You’ve got great coaches. If you get frustrated, talk to them. Do you need encouragement? Look to them. If you need some motivation to keep going, listen to them. Learn from them. One of the things I have experienced in leadership is sometimes in difficulty and adversity people forget the vision. They forget all of the good things that the leaders have done for them and focus only on the bad moment, not the good of the vision. Live in harmony with one another.
Ultimately, as the passage says, we must look to the God of encouragement and endurance and to Christ His Son who bore the reproach of disharmony and disunity for us (Romans 15:3). There is no amount of human ugliness or suffering you will ever go through that He has not already gone through FOR YOU. Look to Him and live in harmony with one another.
A group of people who look to Him for example, for encouragement for endurance can live in harmony with one another. He can take personalities, adversities, difficulties – He can take those moments when you are so tempted to do your own thing and it looks like it is getting ugly – He can bring it all together in harmony.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through enduracne and through the encouragment of the Scriptures we might have hope.Romans 15:4
His Word is His baton. When we look to the Word all of the chaos of disharmony is silenced. Humans are humbled. Our eyes tune in to Him. We wait for the command.
When a group of young men like yourselves humble themselves for the cause of Christ and look to Him – He brings about an epic testimony, an iconic story – He will create a background to this season you will never forget for the rest of your lives.
For the sake of Christ, live in harmony with one another.
This post is the manuscript of a chapel talk given before game 4 of the 2019 Christian Heritage Lions Football season.
Pulse – Life in Rhythm. My latest book Pulse was inspired by team talks given during the 2016 CHS Lions season.