Do you believe in magic?
At the risk of bringing up bad memories of recent college football playoff games, there is an interesting story about the Clemson Tigers football team … and magic. Charlie Waters, the all-pro former strong safety for the Dallas Cowboys, tells about his college coach and his belief in magic.
When Frank Howard was the head coach at Clemson University, he went out to practice one Monday before a big game. The injury report from the previous weekend was not good: His first- and third-string quarterbacks were both out with injuries. That left him with his second-, fourth- and fifth-string quarterbacks to play in the big game on Saturday afternoon.
In the first five minutes of practice on Monday, his (now) first-string quarterback (who had been the second stringer) hurt his knee. That elevated the fourth-stringer to the first team and put the fifth-stringer on the second team.
About 10 minutes later, that quarterback hurt his knee. Well, the fifth-string quarterback was next in line for the first team. Coach Howard blew the whistle and gathered all the players around him. He took the one remaining quarterback, put his arm around him, and said in his gruff voice, “Son, do you believe in magic?”
The quarterback replied in a hesitant, half-hearted way, “Well, sorta.”
Coach Howard looked at him, pointed his five fingers at him, and waved his hand over him like a magician would, and said, “Poof! You are now a first-string quarterback!”
What that coach was telling his team and his quarterback is something that all of us who claim to follow Christ need to hear consistently: That no matter how great the odds, no matter how mighty the opponent, no matter how impossible the task, there is always hope!
All too often we look at life and the future and see nothing ahead but brick walls. We look at the road we are to travel and all we see are potholes and detour signs. As we anticipate playing the game of life with our fifth string quarterback, we somehow hope that someone somewhere will wave a magic wand and transform that hesitant, half-hearted substitute into a talented, confident, skillful, future All-American.
The great former coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, used to have a philosophy of coaching that others through the years have imitated, primarily because it was so very successful for him. He aimed at attacking the strongest points in the opponent’s defense. He would run the ball right over the strongest defensive lineman repeatedly, hoping to eventually wear out the best person the opposing team had. Once that was accomplished, victory could not be far behind.
In the game called life, often it is Satan who uses that very strategy to attempt to defeat us. He will take aim at our greatest successes, our greatest strengths, and try to turn them into tragedies.
He will attack our marriages, our businesses, yes, and even our kids. He “prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us” (1 Peter 5:8) and will do everything in his power to shatter our hope, destroy our confidence, and defeat us.
One does not have to look very far to see this happening in our world today. The world situation is frightening at best, especially considering the fact that we seem to be on the brink of a third world war. The racial disharmony in our nation is also tragically escalating, it seems. And the political infighting is only increasing and not decreasing over time.
To read the daily headlines or to watch the evening news only breeds a sense of discouragement, depression, and defeat for even the most positive of people.
That does snot even take into account the breakdown of the family, the drug and opiate addiction issues, and the rising unemployment problems which face families and individuals all over our country. And there does not seem to be a magical solution to it all.
But there is hope. The person who seeks to defeat the evil one in the game of life is the individual who does not seek to play the game on the basis of his own ability or talent or skill or confidence or even knowledge of the opponent’s game plan.
That person realizes the game is played by individuals, not governments. He must depend upon the coach — his knowledge, his skill, his experience, his overall strategy.
The Scriptures tell us that our “coach” is Jesus and that the way to accomplish this in life is by “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of faith.” (Hebrews 12:2), and by “casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7).
In other words, each and every day of our lives we must get out of our beds, and immediately and constantly throughout the day place our faith and trust for the minute-by-minute conduct of our day into the hands and care of Jesus Christ.
That trust is, in a very practical way, what the Bible calls “praying without ceasing.” (See 1 Thessalonians 5:17). It is relying upon our Coach to take care of how we play the game each and every day.
I don’t know how that Clemson quarterback played in the game that following Saturday afternoon, but I do know that as he relied upon his coach, he had the confidence, the skill, and the knowledge to win the game. And that, my friends, is magical!
Are you living your life on your own, or are you depending upon the Coach?
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and the News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Port William UMC, Port William.