I remember it just like it was yesterday. I was just hired as the new head varsity football coach at small high school in rural Alabama. I was so excited….. I was about to meet my players for the very first time and I was thinking to myself, “What am I going to say to these boys? What prophetic words of football wisdom could I share with these young men?” I was drawing a blank, I had nothing. I was nervous but I did not want it to show. So, I did what any good football coach would do in that situation would do, I just spoke from the heart. I went into the cafeteria where all my players were waiting to meet me and I stood right in front of them and in a very stern way that only a football coach knows how to do, I told them that I had three rules: 1: Walk on the sidewalk. I said if we were supposed to walk on the grass, God would not have created concrete for us to walk on. 2: Don’t wear your hat inside. Wearing a hat inside will make you lose your hair. 3: Do whatever I tell you to do.
Like with every set of rules, there were both good and bad consequences depending on whether or not my players followed them. One positive consequence was that a young man could end up with a college scholarship after playing football for me. One negative consequence was that a young man could find his college football dream fade into the darkness by me removing him from the team if he broke the team rules that I had just set a third time - any of them.
In Psalm 128 we read a positive consequence for those of us who follow God’s rules. It says that we will be blessed. Psalm 128 is only six verses long, and all six of them tell us the good things that happen when we follow God’s rules. If we choose to break His rules, however, the negative consequences are a little more costly than just losing our scholarship. We will be separated from God.
While I was the Head Football Coach at that small high school, none of my players ever saw me go back on my word. I never gave anyone a fourth chance, not even some all-stars who got kicked off the team. Once you broke the rules for the third time, you were flat gone. We finished the season with only 14 players left on the varsity squad. The kids on that team learned two things that season: 1. I am a man of my word. 2. I was an idiot for kicking some of my best players off the team just to prove the point.
Thankfully, our Master Coach, God, does not have such a team policy. The Bible tells us that all who follow God’s team rules are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Just to make sure we get it right, God sent His one and only Son to atone for all the times we break His team rules. Does that mean we should keep on breaking them? No. There are still consequences for our disobedience. But thankfully, even if we break the rules three times, God’s grace is sufficient and we are still part of His team.
God Bless and GOOOOOO CATS!
Rev. Scott Murphy is the Pastor at the First Christian Church in Russellville.