With football season approaching, the commentators are already speculating on this season’s favored running backs. As I listened to their analysis, I realized that Christ followers could learn much from a great running back.

In order for a player to succeed in this position he must, of course, learn the game and be well-practiced in its fundamentals. Consistently practicing and building endurance will result in game participation and, for many, a starting position. In order for Christ followers to be effective for His kingdom they must recognize their position “in Christ”, study His Word, and live daily by its principles. As a result, he will be prepared to be used by God. (1 Cor. 1:30, 2 Tim. 2:15)

As a ball carrier, the best running back is the one who learns how to be effective against the defense—successful when facing opposition. It’s not as important that the running back fumbles the ball on occasion or that he doesn’t convert on 3rd down. The most important thing is that he crosses the goal line. A successful Christ follower must be effective against the opposition of the enemy. Although believers are not perfect, Christ will enable them in every way to accomplish His will. (Ephesians 6:11, Psalm 37:23-24)

 As you would expect, a running back must be disciplined physically and mentally for the game. He must forfeit his own way of doing things for the success of the team. Similarly, a disciple of Christ must choose to surrender his life to Christ’s authority, place the needs of others before his own, and become disciplined in mind and body. (Galatians 2:20, Ephesians 4:1, 1 Cor. 9:25-27)

The greatest running backs have chosen to listen to and carefully follow their coach’s instructions. Even though it is the player, rather than his coach, who is actually in the game, his coach plays a vital role in the player’s success. As Christ’s workmanship, believers desiring to accomplish God’s will must be willing to listen to and carefully follow His instructions. (John 14:26, Isaiah 48:17)

While it is fun to consider all the pre-season hype and speculation, remember it’s not a commentator’s prognostication that makes a great running back. It’s how effectively the running back played his position throughout the season that reveals one’s greatness. Christ followers are on this earth for only a season. It’s not what people say or think about them that determines their success, but whether or not they hold fast to God’s teaching to the end. (John 8:31)

Joshua 1:8: Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.