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Plays that Work

I watched my son coach a football game this week. In his halftime speech to the players he said, “We are going to call plays that work. It is up to you to decide if you want to implement them in the way you are capable.” The team responded and it was remarkable to watch. They played a mediocre first half against a team they should have resoundingly defeated. As a result, they were behind by 1 point at halftime. They were a different team in the second half and they ended up winning big.
Christian living is a lot like that game. God has called “plays that work.” When we follow His directions, we “win big.” When we ignore His plan and rely on our own resources, we play mediocre at best. It got me thinking, What is God calling me to that is both possible and highly effective?
In this regard, Galatians 5:16-23 is my playbook for life. The main call is given in verse 16, “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” When I ignore the directive, the things I most want to avoid begin to develop. (v. 19-21) When I follow the instructions to walk by the Spirit, however, the character traits I need the most are supernaturally established and strengthened: (v. 22-23)
• The love that makes all relationships work. Without this, I would tend toward selfish choices that alienate others.
• The joy that keeps me energetic regardless of circumstances. Without this, I could easily become cynical because of the difficulties of life.
• The peace that drives away worry and keeps me confident in my relationship with God. Without this, insecurity and manipulation appear to be effective defense mechanisms.
• The patience that keeps me focused on doing the right thing even when the results are not immediately apparent. Without this, being in a hurry to do something runs over the wisdom to figure out the best thing.
• The kindness that softens my heart toward others and makes me willing to give them the same grace God gave to me. Without this, my heart would lose its ability to trust and be compassionate.
• The goodness that develops a resolve in my heart to live with a high moral and ethical standard—not because I have to but because it really is the best way to live. Without this, I would forget that I am accountable to God and will one day answer for what I do in this life.
• The gentleness that increases my influence as I help people move from where they are to where they can be. Without this, I would expect people to be instantaneously mature because it would make my life easier.
• The faithfulness that keeps me on track in life. Without this, the passions of my life could easily overrun the commitments I have which would put regrets in the place of accomplishments.
• The self-control I need to direct my energies to long-term success rather than short-term gratification. Without this, I could easily settle for the things that feel good for a little while rather than the pursuits that are deeply satisfying in the long run.
I want my life to be like the second half of my son’s game. I want to be consistent with my potential rather than play down to the level of my competition. In spiritual terms, I have the choice to follow “the desires of the flesh” with all its mediocrity and self-defeating tendencies or I can “walk by the Spirit,” with all the skill, wisdom and strength that comes with it.
The second half begins today!

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