Now I put those two things together along with my grandmother’s love for me and I started thinking about some other things. I started picking up from my Bible school and from my grandmother and mother the story about God’s love for you and me. He put Adam and Eve here and He loved them so much He gave them freedom of choice. He put them in a garden of Eden and said, “This thing is going to be perfect. All you have to do is just stay with me.” But they didn’t want to do that. He gave them freedom of choice. He could have made them His robots but He loved them too much for that.
Many times I want to take my kids and lock them away in a room because I don’t want them to get out and make mistakes. If you love them enough you’ve got to let them go. You’ve got to give them freedom of choice. God gave that to Adam and Eve and they sinned. At that point when they sinned everything that is evil entered the world. God in His infinite wisdom then said, “Now listen, there’s really only one way to get man back. That’s to send my Son Jesus Christ.” He died for us and lived a perfect life, as crucified, arose, went back to heaven and sits on the right hand of God. He’s our way back to God. Isn’t that a fantastic story. God’s Word tells us that God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever should believe on Him should not perish but have everlasting life. Do you realize how great that is. I know I love my children and I know you love your children. Can you imagine what it would be to give one of those up and God did that for us.
When I put those things together in my life I was nine years old. I said, “Hey I’m not a mistake.” The world is proof that God exists. This Bible is proof and the love of my mother and my grandmother and then when I found out how much God loved me, I tell you, at nine years old I got up and took off forward in church and here’s what I said. I said, “God, I know you’re there. I know you made me. I know you love me and I want to give you my life.” That’s one of the greatest decisions I ever made.
Now, I took off in life, though, and you know I started in high school and then I went on into college and I came out of college and, man, I tell you, I’m probably like a lot of you guys. I wanted to be happy and successful. I took off on this journey and, I tell you, all of a sudden, I started seeing that there was a game plan out there. There was a world’s game plan. The world’s game plan is sold to us where? In the papers and it’s in magazines and it’s in the movies and it’s on TV. It said, “If you want to be happy and successful here’s what you have to do. The first thing is you’ve got to make money, gain position if you can, hopefully a position of power in some ways (my case win football games). If you do enough of that you’re going to be happy and successful”
The second thing that the world kind of tells us is that it loves us. The world says, “Man, I love you.” Now if there’s anybody that can talk to you about that, it’s a football coach. Because I’ve heard you guys on fourth and one. What do you all say? “Go for it, go for it.” When I was a young coach I went, “Man, they want to go for it.” The first time I went for it and didn’t make it you all went, “Boo!” A football coach can tell you how the world loves you or not.
The third thing is the world tells you that you have one life to live and then you’re going to die. If that’s the case then you need to do your own thing. It doesn’t matter what you do to other people or anything else. You’ve got one life. You die. Boom, it’s gone and over with.
The last thing the world says is that if you can accomplish enough of these things you’re going to be happy and successful in life, and I wanted that. Probably like some of you out there. I took this game plan and I took off. I came out of college and I’m roaring. I’m trying to do all these things. I kind of put God on the back shelf. I started living by this game plan. I wasted a lot of years. In 1972, God put me back together with that little Sunday School teacher and some other people. You know what happened? By looking at their life I started seeing that there was another game plan.
It was God’s game plan. It was a different game plan then the world’s game plan. The world says you’ve got to make money, gain position, and win football games and God says that’s not it at all. If you have a the right perspective on all those things and have God’s perspective on all those things which you can get from God, that is the most important thing. It’s not making the money but having the right perspective on money. It’s not your career and all the things you can achieve and all the things you can store up from a financial standpoint. It’s having a right perspective on those things.
The second point about the world loves you, I’d like to illustrate by telling a little story. In 1983 we probably had one of the best football games I think that has ever played in the NFL. We were thirteen and two with two one point losses. We had John Riggs as a full back and Joe Thiesman at quarterback. We had a defense that was rock solid and, I’m telling you, we were pretty good. We were going to the Super Bowl in 1983 and we were going to play the Raiders in Tampa. Here I was a P.E. major from San Diego State who was coaching a football team that had gone to a couple of Super Bowls. Everybody in Washington was saying I was pretty smart. The worst part of that is I started to believe it.
We go down to Tampa and we line up and I was sure that we were going to beat the Raiders that day. We took off in that game and that first half was awful. We got a punt blocked, we fumbled the ball, and everything in the world went wrong. It comes down to twelve seconds to go in the first half and I was confronted with a decision. They had just punted to us and the ball was all the way back on our twenty yard line. The football buffs will tell you that you can’t throw a pass into the end zone eighty yards. I was confronted by do I fall on this football or do I try to go for something. Now I know how you guys all are. If I could have stopped the TV sets whereever you were you would have said to me, because I’ve heard you in the stands, “Are you crazy? Try it. Go for something. Take a chance.”
It’s a little different for me on the sidelines. I’d like to have you all down there with me sometimes. I’ve got Joe Thiesman yacking in this ear and I’ve got other guys yelling and screaming in this ear. So I said, “Shut up. Here’s what were going to do. We’re going to take a shot.” We had two timeouts left. We going to try and throw a little screen pass here and try to pick up about twenty or thirty yards and get to midfield. Call time out, hopefully with a few seconds left, and throw a Hail Mary in the end zone and at least we’ll have a chance. Makes sense, doesn’t it? I told Joe Thiesman that’s what you’re going to do.
Joe takes off in the ball game and he drops back. Now when you’re that far away from the goal line nobody plays man to man defense. Everybody drops straight back. Well, one lineman went man to man with Joe Washington who we were going to throw the screen pass to and Joe Thiesman goes back and throws the prettiest screen pass in the world to the Raider linebacker who scored that day. Remember I told you I was a pretty smart guy in Washington? The next day in the Washington post I was called a buffoon. That’s got to hurt.
I say this to illustrate to you that if there’s anything a football coach can tell you is the only way to please the world is to win every time. Now if you’re going to live by those standards and you’re in business, you better make the deal every time. You better not have any financial problems. You better not have any relationship problems because the world loves somebody who wins all the time. That isn’t the case at all with God. God loves us more when we’re having a tough time then when we are winning.
The third thing is we only have one life to live and then we die. That’s probably the biggest mistake any of us can make believing that. I found out through some other people and studying God’s word that He’s says, “No, I gave you a soul that’s going to live forever.” Now you stop and think about that. If we’re only playing this game until we die, well, do your own thing. It kind of makes sense. If we’re talking about living forever, the question becomes where are we going to live forever? That’s the question we’ve got to ask ourselves. We find out that from God’s Word we either going to live with Him forever or separated from Him forever. That’s an eye opener. That’s something we need to strongly consider. The question becomes where are you and I going to live forever?
The fourth thing I talked about was that the world says to do your own thing. I don’t think you ever do your own thing. I had just won a big football game in Washington and we were getting ready to play the Dallas Cowboys in about 1984 for the divisional championship. I tell you what, that day I was strutting around that house. You know how we are, guys, we made a great deal, we won the football game, or we had a great sermon and God puts great woman in our life, doesn’t He, to know right when to knock us down. I’m strutting around the house that morning and getting ready to go to work and Pat said, “Do you mind picking up your socks and your bathrobe?” I said, “The nerve of her to tell such an important guy to do that.”
I kept getting ready for work and she started telling something about the two boys. She’d had some problems with one of them and I thought what is the deal here? I started getting edgy. What’s she doing worrying me with this. Something about my sons when I trying to get ready for work and trying to win this big football game. I kind of stormed out of the house and slammed the door and got in the car. I’d made a promise to myself that I’d try to pray each day on my way to work. All of a sudden in that prayer time it came to me. When I got to work here’s what I did. I called Pat back and I said, “Pat, I want to tell you something. What you’re taking care of at home is more important than what I am taking care of at work.” The most important thing that I’m going to leave on this earth is not those football games, it’s my two sons and the influence I’ve had on others. If there’s anything we need straight in our minds it’s that. That’s the only thing we’re going to leave here that amounts to anything.
Every time I accomplished something like winning games, went to the Super Bowls, went to Rose Bowls, made some money and all that, I still had an emptiness inside of me. You know why I had that emptiness? I started discovering in 1982 that God had made me and He had put that void there and it didn’t matter how much money I tried to put in there or how many football games I tried to win, I still had that empty feeling inside of me. Maybe some of you have that. God made us with that empty feeling because He made us for a personal relationship with Him. That’s the only thing that can fill that. You see what happened to me was that sin over that period of time (about 16 years) kind of separated me from God. You know the great thing is God has a solution to that. Do you know what His solution to sin is? It’s Jesus Christ and a personal relationship with Him.
The other thing I started to find out after putting those two together, the world’s view and God’s view, was that God didn’t want me to just have a life and just have some fun. He wanted me to have an abundant life. Not just a life. He wanted me to be the best football coach. He wanted you to be the best businessman or the best pastor and the best mechanic. He wanted us to be great. John 10:10 tells us that I am come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly. I started discovering in this world’s game plan I wasn’t having an abundant life. I needed to start following God’s game plan so in 1972 in church I got up and went forward and here’s what I said. God I’ve known you were there ever since I was nine years old but I’ve not been living for you and tonight I want to rededicate my life and commit my life to you.
Thinking back to those three guys in my life that past away I’m sure there were things that they looked at and wished that they could change about there life. I wish I could change those sixteen years. I wasted those. That rededication that night started a new life for me. I kind of took off in a different direction.
I want to share with you three little instances about since I rededicated my life and have put myself back in a right relationship with the Lord. The first one starts with our careers. Careers are important to guys and gals. We all want to be successful in our fields. I had wanted to be a head coach. I’d made up my mind that ’s want I wanted. Sometimes that’s what I wanted more than the other things. More than God. More than my family. I had that way up high. I was going after it.
Well, I went down to Tampa Bay, like I said to be the offensive coordinator and I just knew that was the next step to being a head coach. That thing started out being good and all of a sudden it went to pieces. We wound up 4 and 12 that year. When I finished that season I could hold out my hand and it would be shaking like a leaf. That thing just fell apart and the whole time I’m going, “Why, why Lord? Why are you doing that?” You see every program I’d ever been in I’d been successful. All of a sudden now I’m losing and I’m saying, “Why? Why is this happening?” Maybe some of you have had experiences like that in your career.