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Coach God

by Tim O'Hearn

Before practically every major league ball game, be it baseball or one of the lesser sports, the team meets to be briefed on the day’s game plan. Somebody, called manager, coach, trainer, or some other title, lays out the method to be used to win that day’s game. In football they may dictate the first ten or fifteen plays. In baseball, they may analyze the pitcher’s “stuff” to determine how aggressive the hitters should be. In tennis or boxing, they may analyze weak sides or strong sides. Whatever the sport or game, the players are expected to follow the game plan. A quarterback who goes against the plan from the beginning won’t last long in that game, or the game in general. A pitcher who knows that a particular batter loves to hit low, outside curve balls over the fence had best stick with fastballs and sliders or he won’t finish the inning.

The nation of Israel had God as their manager. Sometimes they followed the game plan; sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes they understood the game plan; sometimes they didn’t.

Israel had crossed over the Jordan river on dry ground. They were facing the next game, against Jericho. Coach God called them together and laid out the game plan. Six days march around the city in silence except for the sound of shofars. On the seventh day march around seven times and then shout at the long blast on the shofar. Surely as a quarterback, Joshua questioned this strategy. How are you going to get a first down, much less a touchdown, with this game plan? Fortunately, Joshua was a good quarterback, and the plan worked. Jericho fell. (Josh 6) Unfortunately, Achan violated the game plan by taking spoils. As a result, Israel lost the next game, against Ai. (Josh 7) Achan was forcibly ejected from the game.

Gideon was selected to manage the Israelite team. He may have had specific goals in mind, but his General Manager, God, decided in a different plan for the draft. He didn’t want hitters, he wanted pitchers. Clay pitchers to be specific. He told Gideon how to draft his team in such a way that they would meet the minimum roster size. Then he used his pitchers to their best advantage. That is, Gideon surrounded the enemy army at night, then blew shofars and broke pitchers with torches in them to confuse the Midianites. Of course, the game plan worked. (Jdg 7)

Jesus met with the apostles and laid out the game plan that Coach God wanted. He said, “ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Elsewhere he told them to “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Lk 24:49) Following the coach’s game plan, the church began on the following Pentecost in Jerusalem. After the death of Stephen, “they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.” (Acts 8:1) The remainder of the book of Acts is devoted to showing how the rest of the game plan, “unto the uttermost part of the earth,” was carried out.

Churches have pregame meetings as well. The assembly of the church is not the game; it is preparation. God is the owner and general manager. Jesus is the coach or manager. The preacher may be the bench coach or line coach. The management and the players (us) must be on the same page of the playbook for victory. We are all in the game together. That has a couple of implications.

The team does not sit in the locker room after the game plan is explained. They go out to play the game. Our coach does not expect us to just sit in the assembly and that is where our participation ends. After the assembly we are expected to fulfil the Great Commission in our own way out in the stadium of the world. We are the players. We are not “CEO Christians” (Christmas/Easter Only).

We have to know the playbook. A catcher doesn’t just go out and sit behind home plate. He spends hours studying his own pitchers and the opponent’s hitters. A tight end needs to know where he is supposed to go on every play called. Professionals don’t just study the playbook in the locker room. They spend hours every week going over the playbook and video. Likewise, we need to be studying our playbook, the Bible. We don’t want to disappoint our coach.