Hockey is a team sport. That means each player gives his best effort in a way that is unselfish and in obedience to the rules of the game as well as the advice of the coach. It is a sport I love, and I see the same enjoyment in all the rest of our team members that come out twice a week to play together.
Not only do we get a good, energetic workout, but there is also great warmth of support and dignity for us all. We, as a group, take pride in contributing towards a goal (called an “assist”) or towards doing our part in a defensive effort. Anyone who “hogs the puck” or “lollygags” is not appreciated. The camaraderie is a gift that cannot be bought.
There is great need for individuality in our lives, and we do recognize the rights of each person to be themselves. But in every institution in our society, there is also the need that we surrender some of our individuality in order to become part of that institution. When “each man does what is right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6), there is chaos. I cannot imagine a hockey team in which individuality was deemed more important than the team.
Of course, we need to understand that properly, because the individual certainly does matter. On our team, anyone who falls awkwardly or seems to be injured is cause enough to stop the game and focus all our attention on the person. I see that in all sports. Athletes know that there are rules to which you surrender yourself. To win at all costs is not on the minds of most athletes—they do draw the line somewhere. There are many athletes, though, to whom winning is everything—to be accomplished at any cost. They are not respected in the same way.
Christianity means becoming part of God’s “team.” He has very exact rules for being on His team. One of the first demands is to get rid of the self (Romans 14:7; Romans 15:1-3). Being on this team requires a change in our values and sense of individualism. It means loving our enemies—not just our friends and neighbors (Matthew 5:44). It means being ready to do something unpleasant and inconvenient for the group that we are part of. There is no team I know of that demands more of the surrender of self (of the individual) than God’s team—being a converted child of God and follower of Jesus Christ. We can quit most other “teams,” because we have paid an entrance fee of a sort. We must never leave God’s team, because Jesus Christ paid our entrance fee and it was costly to Him.
We all realize the need for well-trained personnel in any organization. Army, navy or air force personnel must give up their own personal comforts—and sometimes safety—for the sake of the group. Anyone shirking their duty or being incompetent poses a danger to others. Travel groups, clubs and organizations, attendance at school and living in a family home are all examples from our everyday lives that require us to exhibit patience, restraint and the willingness to learn and abide by the rules of the institution.
Nothing could be plainer. Yet all too often we chafe at the very cords that make our involvement possible. The causes for the lack of understanding lie in not understanding that it is precisely in the giving up of bad habits or instilled wrong ideas that will lead to opportunity, support and the respect of others. True success comes to the one who is willing to sacrifice his or her personal “wants” for the sake of the team effort.
We have the freedom to make choices—good or bad. Once we are clearly able to see the value of good choices, we will embrace them fully. We will realize that we as individuals are often wrong in our attitudes and interaction with others, and we will make the changes so that we open the door to a wonderful world of opportunities, of friendship, of service that is given freely and gladly. Therein lies the keys to a happy and contented life.
There are a number of scriptures that refer to God’s “Way.” It is not a way designed by men—God makes all the rules and calls the infractions. He coaches the team and helps the players work on their problems. Other New Testament books refer to it in various forms, but the book of Acts has the largest number of references to this “way.”
Some examples are: Apollos, who had been instructed in “the way of the Lord” (Acts 18:25), had “the way of God” explained more accurately (Acts 18:26). There was “a great commotion about the Way” (Acts 19:23). Paul worshipped God “after the way which they call a sect” (Acts 24:14). Acts 24:22 refers to Felix “having more accurate knowledge of the Way.” There are other scriptures that describe the rules God demands we play by.
God wants His followers to learn to care for one another and to work together as a team. Paul wrote that we ought to consider one another to stir others up to do good works (Hebrews 10:24). We are to love our neighbors “as” we love ourselves (Matthew 5:43). It is known by people who observe and study human behavior that we need a respect, honor and love for ourselves before we can give respect, honor and love to another. The key is to do this “as” you love yourself, not less than or more than. God knows the value of this important piece of knowledge. That is why He gave His only begotten Son before we repented or asked for this help (John 3:16; Revelation 13: 8).
God starts us off at the beginning of our spiritual lives by giving us self-respect and love and allowing us to honor ourselves. It is not because we have done anything to deserve this, but it is God lifting us out of the pit into which we have fallen. When God forgives our sins, they do not exist, as far as He is concerned. We need to forgive ourselves and have faith in the blood of Jesus so that we can know (and know that we know) that God has accepted us because of Jesus’ sacrifice.
Playing by God’s rules
Once we have been given that “contract” from God—forgiveness upon true repentance—we play by His rules. We are to resist sin and the author of it, Satan (Hebrews 12:1-4). We are to allow Him to be our coach and correct our errors (Hebrews 12:9-10). We are to look carefully at ourselves to see if we have in any way fallen short (Hebrews 12:15). Doing this and more, we grow in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18).
That is the recipe for the success of any hockey team. Know the rules, play within them, listen to the advice of a good coach and be concerned about the whole team. God wants every person to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), and Paul explains how we are to “carefully” follow the rules God has given through His ministry. Our manner of life, purpose for life, faith in Him and perseverance are all part of the process. God is grooming His “team” to be the star team for all eternity.
The keys are right there in your head—take them and live! Interestingly enough, there cannot be “human rights” for anyone unless everyone is willing to “surrender,” so rather than saying “Surrender or Human Rights,” we might say: “Surrender is Human Rights.”
For more interesting reading, request the booklet Making Life Work.