Football, Formation, and Faith, Pt. 5: Vision Precedes Victory
The past few weeks, temps have swelled above 90 degrees with humidity over 70% and a heat index that often makes it feel well over 100 degrees down here in South Florida.
Why expend so much effort during the most unbearable part of the year?
Vision, that’s why.
The young men who roll out of bed or miss family dinner do so because they all dream – every last one of them – of winning a state title. A few of the players, of course – the prima donnas (a very temperamental person with an inflated view of their own talent or importance, and yes, every team has at least one) – are just playing for themselves. The great coaches who lead stellar programs, however, know how to whip even them into shape.
Over time, through intentionality, the best players serve the larger purpose of the team because they all want to be champions.
They all have a vision.
Vision always precedes victory. Vision doesn’t ensure victory, but it’s impossible to win – at anything – without it!
Perhaps that’s why so few Christians experience victory or transformation – lasting change that takes place over time. Christians simply suffer from a lack of – or lackluster – vision. You know, the kind of vision that grabs you by the gut and simply will not let go. Without vision, effort is easily wasted and attention quickly distracted. Effort that’s void of vision requires more ‘should and ought’ than it does ‘want and desire.’
And, let’s be honest. Christians should and ought the world to death.
If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “I just ought to be doing better by now.” Seems to me it’s the national Christian tagline. That sentiment does speak of vision, but it’s terribly short-sighted.
An “I just need to do more, try harder, or be better” vision for discipleship always begins with ‘should and ought’ and ends with “fail and shame.”
Who came up with that idea? Why is it the perpetual drumbeat of modern-day discipleship? If God were interested in a better version of me, then the Gospel would be meaningless.
Yet, it’s the vision we peddle all the time. It comes out in thousands of the same-sounding moralizing and demeaning sermons with pithy tag lines like these:
- Five Tips for Troubled Parents.
- Three Musts for Marriage.
- How to Minister at Work.
- Managing . . . .
Enough already. No wonder your friends don’t want to join you at church this Sunday.
Dallas Willard hit the nail on the head when, in The Divine Conspiracy, he called this version of Christianity the Gospel of sin management. Eventually, this short-sighted vison-bereft gospel leaves us exhausted, longing for more.
Formation – lasting change in the context of community – can happen and truly become the default reality of our daily experience, but only when our vision is grounded in the eternal grace offered by the inexhaustible love of God in Christ.
Are you tired of not measuring up? Are you sick of going to church, only to leave feeling like a failure, all over again? Do you believe there is more than the try harder, do more, be better, version of the Gospel you’ve been sold?
Football coaches cast vision for a victory and ultimately a championship season. This vision is grand enough to get my son out of bed when many of his peers are sleeping.
The Gospel casts the grandest vision of them all, yet rather than rolling out of bed, we roll over and hit the snooze button – just hoping for five more minutes before we have to jump on that hamster wheel to nowhere again.
If you’d like to roll out of bed and experience the change you know the Gospel makes not only possible but also probable, then begin with vision.
Start by asking the ‘why’ questions!
Here are a few questions you might choose to reflect on this week:
- Why do I want to experience lasting, meaningful change?
- What’s my vision of heaven? What are the images, symbols, and scenarios I imagine when I think of heaven?
- What’s my vision of the good life? What do I spend my life pursuing?
- When I picture the heavenly Father, what comes to mind? What do I feel when He looks at me? What does He say to me?
Vision precedes victory, yes. It also precedes formation!
Disrupting to Renew!