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This is a Football

According to an often repeated story, legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, once expressed his frustration by stopping practice and saying to his Green Bay Packer professionals something like, “Let’s start at the beginning. This is a football. These are the yard markers. I’m the coach. You are the players.” (Although I haven’t been able to confirm the accuracy of the whole quote, many sources agree  that “the Coach” is remembered for saying to men who prided themselves in their knowledge of the game, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”)

In a similar way, I often come back to a few words of the Bible that just as carefully repeat the spiritual basics of following Christ.

We’ve looked at 2Peter 1:5-7 before. But because of the story it tells about how faith grows and is expressed I want to occasionally review it for my sake and your’s.

After reminding followers of Jesus that: God has graciously and generously given us all of the power and promises we need to live the life of faith he has called us to, the Apostle Peter says,

“For this very reason (tightly connecting vss 1-4 to vvs 5-7), giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

By the way Peter repeats his “yard markers”, he shows that  there is a logic– a critical, non-negotiable, faith-based story he wants us to see.

In short, he wants us to see that what God has done for us in Christis the basis of our response to him through the following relationships of faith:

Links 1&2.  virtue and knowledge–Without a desire for something better than our natural ways, we will not grow in a personal knowledge of Jesus.

Links 2&3.  knowledge and self-control–Without a personal knowledge of Jesus shaping our thoughts, we will not grow in self-control.

Links 3&4.  self-control and endurance– Without self-control we will not grow in our ability to endure.

Links 4&5.  endurance and God-centered character– Without endurance we will not grow in God-centered character.

Links 5&6.  God-centered character and brotherly kindness– Without God-centered character we will not grow in the Father’s love for his family.

Links 6&7.  brotherly kindness and love– Without sharing the Father’s love for his family, we will not grow in sharing his love for his enemies and ours’.

Peter then goes on in vss 8-13 to repeat over and over how important “these things” are to our spiritual well being.

Over time I think I’ve seen why Peter gave such emphasis to these basics. Each faith-based link builds on the one that precedes it and becomes a basis for the one that follows.

The point is not that this is a logical mind game that is suddenly solved once all of the essentials are linked, but rather that the mysterious and wonderful grace of God becomes increasingly evident in us as we live out the relationships of an inner life that Peter calls us back to.

Most importantly, I’m just as convinced that the whole story of the Bible, and all of its individual stories of faith, illustrate the wonder of God’s Spirit and grace working through these same basic relationships of the heart.

That means that we could certainly grow in our knowledge of Christ without knowing what Peter says in vss 5-7. But no one can grow in Christ without practicing and experiencing the relationships of faith this text summarizes for us.

In Lombardi terms, “This is a football. These are the yard markers”:

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13 Responses to “This is a Football”

  1. tallmark says:

    In football and in our spiritual lives step one is to be diligent. Peter’s list begins with diligence. Constant and earnest effort to accomplish what is undertaken. Persistent exertion. It is present tense. What step are you working on today? This is God’s word. Jesus is his son. “In the beginning…”

  2. dep7547 says:

    Amen! These truths need to be realized every day as spiritual exercise that, Alas! I have personally gotten out of shape in! I cannot explain how easy it is to lose ground in our daily battles when we treat these exercises as spiritual milk that we have outgrown–even adults need milk! It is my prayer that everyone who reads this blog may look at where they stand today in relation to where they stood when the savior first entered their lives! Amen! Even so, come Lord Jesus!

  3. SFDBWV says:

    A formula for a step by step method to develop Christlike brotherly love.

    If we truly want to be Christlike, then all of our lives we will strive to be so. Yet here we are immersed in the sea of life,shared by all types of unChristlike people.

    Self…. is I believe the basis of all sin. Self…the focus always on self. How will this relate to me? How can I gain from this? What’s in it for me?

    Even in the family of Christ, Apostles argued over whom among them would be first.

    To run the race as Paul said, is a life long ordeal.But not all of us are equal.Some people are deep while others are shallow and some even stoney. So the roots of God’s Word grows accordingly.

    John the Babtist said, ” I must decrease so that He may increase.” So it is for me, in order for Christ to increase in me I must cease to be.

    The problems are that there are many distractions in life. Not only temptations but real problems. Pain,suffering,heartache,each at levels that take all of us to the limits of our understanding of God and our relationship with Jesus the Christ.

    Many peoples over the past 2 thousand years have tried to seperate themselves form the world. In order to be able to become less distracted from the world and closer to God. I see that only as running away from the responsibility of being a light in a dark world. We must confront the enemy and allow ourselves to be used of God in whatever capacity he wants.

    God gives to each of us a measure of faith. Not all equal. God is in control of all matters. Not us. Any achievement we may be able to do for God is only because he enabled it to be so. We are nothing without him and only are able to be anything for him, because of him.

    Brotherly love? Cain killed Abel. There are many peoples in my life I find it hard to love. I can forgive them. I can even understand why they are the bad people they are. As I have said before, on my wall here in front of me is 1 Corinthians 13, vs’s 1 thru 13. A testimony to how we are to love, and how Christ loves all. Even the worst of us.

    I know of an 86 year old widow here in our community who lives as close to thoes principals as anyone I know. Last week an intruder tricked his way into her house and robbed her of her pension check and money she had prepared to pay her bills with. We will catch him, eventualy. She and I and others have both prayed for this man and gave God the praise that through this evil act some hearts are changed. For me to love this man is a difficult task. Not impossible, just difficult.

    I want to thank all of you,for your continued patience with me and my thoughts.

  4. poohpity says:

    Sometimes I feel scared because I do not trust people anymore is this from satan or is it a sign of the times? I trust God but it seems that people even Christians are out to do something other than what comes out of their mouths.

  5. Your Love Inspires says:

    poohpity… I understand your plight. With the nonsense that is playing out on the world stage in American politics for example, I believe many of us our being led astray by a “greater good” mentality that has nothing to do with the steps laid out by Peter in the Scriptures Mark used to illustrate the development of Christ like character. We were told by Jesus that it would be as such and this even took place in His day. Remember He foretold of events as these so do not lose heart and keep your eyes on Him. As a friend told me recently… Jesus never said it was going to be easy. This was in response to my own concerns that you have addressed. His Spirit gives us the strength to prevail as the “salt of the earth” and it is He who will eventually bring us safely home. It is The Holy Spirit that gives us the peace that is beyond understanding, as evidenced by His disciples as they walked through their trials. I say this to myself as I say it to others.

  6. Robert says:

    SFDBWV said:

    “Self…. is I believe the basis of all sin. Self…the focus always on self. How will this relate to me? How can I gain from this? What’s in it for me?”

    For me, you have no reason to thank me for my patience, your thoughts are always so enlightening to me. I should thank you.

    You have distilled into a single paragraph that which we are ALL guilty of to varying degrees but when I look at it expressed in those words, I see it so clearly and simply.

    Perhaps, Marts getting back to basics path and the “links” are the steps needed to defeat the sin of “Self”?

    So much more to think about, I’m thinking.

  7. daisymarygoldr says:

    Football! Is it a fowl or a fish? Yard markers? Sorry, it is impolite to utter in an unknown tongue… but I get the idea…these are some excellent things to be reminded about. Never read this passage as faith-based links that build on in succession …but this view did enlighten my eyes of understanding! The Bottom line here is: To “know” who God is by “knowing” “what God has done for us in Christ”…that is the true “knowledge” which will transform our minds into the mind of Christ…and then everything else will make sense…our lives, our trust, our faith, our hope, our love…and yes, this cannot be achieved overnight… one cannot “grow in Christ without practicing and experiencing the relationships of faith”. These are certainly not our natural inclinations but as Christians we are called to cultivate these Godly characteristics by exercising our God-given faith.

  8. cherielyn says:

    Back to basics: This is a BIBLE!

    My daughter told me a good one, awhile back. In case no one has ever heard it before, the letters in BIBLE stand for: BASIC INFORMATION BEFORE LEAVING EARTH.

    Further, I just got a great email from a friend the other day. It should give great pause for thought. It goes as follows:


    *I wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible
    Like we treat our cell phone?*

    *What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?*

    *What if we flipped through it several times a day?*

    *What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?*

    *What if we used it to receive messages from the text?*

    *What if we treated it like we couldn’t live without it?*

    *What if we gave it to kids as gifts?*

    *What if we used it when we traveled?*

    *What if we used it in case of an emergency?*

    *This is something to make you go….*

    *’Hmm…where is my Bible?’*

    *Oh, and one more thing. *

    *Unlike our cell phone, we don’t have to worry
    About our Bible being disconnected because… *

    *Jesus already paid the bill.*

    *Makes you stop and think ‘where are my priorities’?*

    *And no dropped calls!*

    Not bragging here, but I have a PDA that has 6 versions on the Bible on it & I do take it wherever I go.

  9. BruceC says:

    Don’t really have anything to add; but just to say that this is a great topic Mart. And responses from cherielyn and dep7547 are very good too.

    Bruce/Upstate NY

  10. poohpity says:

    You know we can pass a football and we can pass kindness, grace and mercy as well. If we keep it to ourselves it soon dries up and becomes hard.

    Like a cell phone we have to plug into God’s word to charge our battery. Like a PDA when we read it everyday we can have the bible written on our hearts to be brought up whenever needed and do not have to carry it around to keep our hands tied up so they can be available to do God’s work.

    The basics of God’s word keeps it simple and in these days anything that is simple has my vote. Here is a KISS for you, Keep It Simple Saint. Jesus summed it all up very simply Love God and He will teach you to love others like He has loved you.

  11. plumbape says:

    DMG thank you for explaining what I asked in the last post, and it may not work in the Church as you said but it is enlightening to know!
    Thank You Mart for once again guiding the topic along so well. Or expert coaching, not that any of the professional players on the team needed the basics gone over. :-) I am always open to Bible Basics and love learning more ways to think about and then applying what I’ve learned in my everyday life with Jesus and any and all I meet.

  12. plumbape says:

    I heard a story about a young man that was terrible at math & not yet Holy in Spirit. So he decided to steal the teacher’s answer book before a big test. He did that only to find he had all the ANSWERS but none of the questions! Years later he was very Holy in Spirit and still terrible at math but he saw a sign that read Jesus is the Answer which someone had painted under it What was the Question! This led his ministering in a new path because he realized he had learned the Bible by seeking the Lord through school but was now giving the church just the answers without the thought provoking questions it sometimes takes years to sink in, maybe never. I take courses from RBC to re-learn and go out doing my plumbing and thinking about what I learned, letting Christ work in me. I’m grateful for a place that I can get answers and communicate with people living there life all over the planet that have a common interest! Amen

  13. SFDBWV says:

    plumbape, I realy enjoyed your analogy. It reminded me of a time I was told that Jesus saves. However when I responded by asking saved from what. All I got was dumb stares.

    Your thoughts concerning RBC reminded me of 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 verse 11, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” Verse 12, “And we beseech you, brethern, to know them which labour among you and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you.”

    Thank you Robert for your kind words, thank you Mart for this wonderful blog. Thanks to all of you who share this medium in seeking to know and grow in our Lord.

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