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We love sporting events for many reasons:  the excitement of the game, watching athletes [our children] compete in a sport they have spent time training to play, and the thrill of seeing something amazing happen you did not expect.  High School football is a great example of  all three.  Knowing many of the players, I cheer for these boys as they play work/play together to accomplish their unified goals.  

I also love to watch the freshmen.  They practice hard with upper classmen who are physically larger and more experienced than they, yet courageously these young men stand opposite another player fifty to a hundred pounds heavier, willing to do what it takes to defend their position.  During games, they typically stand on the sideline anxiously waiting to hear their name called for the opportunity to enter the field of competition.  

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.  This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 4:1-12  NIV

Last year in my post, Lion's Heart, I lauded a freshman who was always ready on the sideline. Smaller and thinner than most, he had the same fearless determination to be effective and contribute to his team's success, all for God's glory.

This year there is another "Lion's Heart" player.  He often leaves practice feeling defeated.  He has the desire to play the game he loves even though everything seems to be against him.  His hero is unable to be in attendance for games which makes the daily struggle much more intimidating.  Still, each week the Freshman stands along side a tall, confident Senior, who several years ago had similar desires to successfully participate in this physical game controlled by determination, strength and courage.  

The Senior understands Freshman's heart because several years ago he stood in much the same place when a coach needed a substitute on defense.  He called this freshman's name, who ran in with abandon desire.  The other coaches questioned sending in the skinny player yet the coach confirmed confidence in his decision.  The snap came, then a pass.  The freshman jumped up and completed an interception!  An instant hero.  Now this player is the Senior who encourages Freshman to stand ready and to seize every chance to play with all his heart.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.  1 Corinthians 16:13  NIV

A few weeks ago after one of our high school football games, our starting varsity players had played well, amassing a score with enough of a buffer to ensure the win by half-time.  About the middle of the third quarter, the coaches began substituting starters with freshman players allowing them playing time and experience.  Freshman's name was called.  Sprinting, he ran to the free-safety position relieving Senior.  As the opponent's running back broke through several tackles, it was up to Freshman to stop him.  Diving Freshman caught the runner's ankle tripping him, ending the play.  Later, I complimented Freshman on a great game and his effective tackle.  He claimed it was "just luck."

Merrian-Webster defines "luck" as "success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one's own actions."  Luck means there is no reason why something good has happened to you.  Luck takes God out of the equation. 

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the Word of Truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created.  James 1:16-18  NIV

Truth says:  good things occur in our life because an awesome, omnipotent God has gifted ability, then He provides opportunity for applying that gift to glorify His Name and bless others. When something good happens praise must go to the One who provided everything necessary for the blessing to occur.  Anything less diminishes the working of the Creator in and through our lives.

Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.  Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to Him on the ten-stringed lyre.  Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.  For the word of the LORD is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.  The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love.  By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars ; He puts the deep into storehouses.

Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere Him.  For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm. The LORD foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples.  But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.  Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He chose for His inheritance.  From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth— He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do.  No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by His great strength.  A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.  But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine.  We wait in hope for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.  In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.  May Your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in You. (Psalm 33) Amen.

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