Through the years, my life in Christ has greatly benefited from my participation in a wide variety of sports and athletic activities.  One sport that benefited me in unexpected ways was football, which I played for three years during high school. At the time, I hadn’t the foggiest notion that those daily wind-sprints might someday aid my faith, other than causing me to pray desperately. But they did.

The most dreaded part of football practice came at the end of our nearly three hours of warm-ups, calisthenics, chalk-talk, conditioning and agility drills, tackling drills, scrimmages, and sled-work. Our coach would growl the phrase we most dreaded: “On the line!” We’d separate into linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs, three groups ready to suffer, furtively praying for a lenient day, especially on scorching August afternoons. Coach would back up ten yards and blow his whistle. We’d race to the line he was standing on and back to the starting line. Then he’d back up, ten yards at a whack, blowing his whistle each time, until he stood as far as 100 yards away. We ran, lungs gasping, mouths dry, legs burning, and Coach would comfort us with all the tenderness of a drill sergeant, barking those three little words: “Suck it up!” This we did, long past what we believed were our physical limits.

Taken in an unsympathetic light, those three little words can convey a harsh lack of sympathy and a rude disregard for human emotions. But taken in the context of getting a team in shape to compete, they can simply be heard as “Don’t quit!” How little did I realize that this little phrase would provide tremendous strength down the line.  For example, during my first year of college, I can remember numerous nights sitting at my dorm-room desk, laboring to complete my Calculus assignments. How often my impulse to quit was quelled by those three little words reverberating in my head. They became a rallying cry for me that year, prodding me to go further than I believed I was capable.

I admit that you can’t build your theology of Christian living on those three little words. If you put me to it, I’ll always emphasize God’s grace over our human efforts. But I can think of plenty of times in my Christian life where, empowered by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, I’ve also had to dig deep and put in the work. I can think of late nights as a father of newborns in which I desperately craved sleep but continued to rock one of our girls, praying that she would stop wailing and fall asleep. I can think of seasons in Carrie’s and my marriage in which we both have had to give more than our “fair share” to make it work. I can think of difficult times in ministry where instead of following my impulse to abandon ship, I’ve chosen to ride out the storm. Through the years, I’ve gotten a stunning amount of benefit from those football wind-sprints.

Sometimes, we come to the end of ourselves and discover that, indeed, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). And sometimes, we find that God’s grace, which works so mightily within us, empowers us to do what is necessary to persevere and carry out our faith commitments. May God grant you both the grace and strength you need this week!

Andy Wall
Author: Andy Wall