It was week four of the 2018 football season, our team had lost two of the first three games. While we were a young team with only one senior, we had many talented athletes. What we lacked was experience and mental fortitude. The fourth game was against one of the top teams in the state and we were a 45 point underdog.
What I remember most about that game was the toughness that was exhibited. Not just by one player but by all. It was infectious. It was not coached but instead was a by-product of culture. These players had simply had enough of being beat up the first three weeks. Win or lose they were going to go down with a fight and the opponent would walk away knowing that they had to earn whatever was to be achieved that night.
Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who displayed uncanny toughness and resilience in the face of adversity. Be it Noah, Job, David, Paul or a host of others we can see how they called upon God to help them ride out the storms in their lives.
In our own lives, we will face adversity. Jobs will be lost, fortunes squandered, relationships torn asunder, and through it all God will be with us. The question will be if we have the mental toughness to hold onto him or if we are going to shirk Him and turn to our own understanding.
Years later the coach of the team we played contacted me. He had since moved on to another school but he, like me, remembered that game like it was yesterday. We reminisced about how that game motivated both our programs. His team would go on to finish undefeated for the first time in their public school's over 65 years of football while ours would go on to win the private school state title.
That game had no playoff implications, but it meant a great deal to forming the mental toughness of our players. That game started what was to be an amazing 32-2 run for our sophomore class which resulted in three straight state titles. The sheer physicality with which that game was played can not be understated. It was like two heavyweight boxers slugging away in the middle of the ring, both refusing to go down.
In the end, after being tied at halftime, our players lost the game by 14 points and fell to 1-3 on the season. However, what we won was immeasurable because the mental, physical and emotional toughness it produced would forge what others would later call a sixman football dynasty.
The game honors toughness. It honors those who are willing to put in the extra effort, go the extra mile, and push through the current pain. Likewise, the game of life honors toughness. God has not called us to live a life of luxury unencumbered by temptation and trial. Instead, he is seeking tough men, Christian warriors to take up his armor and fight the good fight of faith. The only question is who will embrace this calling?