Excerpt from Playing on God’s Team by T.C. Stallings
Now, Let’s Set the Table
Team is defined as a “group of people working together on a specific task.” By definition, it is true to say that all Christians form a team. We are a group of people who are called by Jesus to work together with the common purpose of carrying out His will in the earth. With that understanding in mind, let’s set the table for this Bible study by speaking a language all of us athletes can vibe with—let’s talk in terms of a team.
Since we as Christians are indeed a team, then we can say that God is our head coach, along with His Son Jesus (who saved us) and His Holy Spirit (who empowers us). Since teams are designed to participate in games, we can say that Christians play in the game of life. This game schedule is a tough and lengthy one, however—365 days a year, seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. We never stop playing because life never stops happening.
More than that, we play against the same opponent each day. Satan’s team is powerful and determined. Their coach is crafty and clever. He is committed to his game plan of killing, stealing, and destroying (see John 10:10). He’s playing to win, and he already has many victories. Just take a look at today’s world and all the evil in it and you can clearly see how many lives he has impacted for the worse. Confidence when facing Satan can be hard to come by, which is why it is important that we always remember that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
This is so powerful to understand! We are more than conquerors. What does that even mean? I decided to look up the word conqueror. What I found was that there were multiple definitions, but here’s the one I loved the most: “To be victorious.”
That is simple. Romans 8:37 guarantees that even with all the power that Satan has in his arsenal, it is those of us on God’s team who will ultimately be victorious. God’s players will be the champions. There is nothing that can stop God’s game plan from succeeding in the lives of His players—except one thing. What can stop His plan?
His own players. How is this even possible? We can stop God’s plan in our lives by abandoning His plan and doing our own thing. Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Doing our own things means that we have abandoned God’s plan.
Coaches Coach, Players Play
Many times, as players on God’s team, the toughest battles we face in the game of life are the ones against ourselves. We get in God’s way by not allowing Him to have His way. This is when we as players decide to take on the role of head coach. And in doing so, we replace God’s plan with our own.
Take a look at John 15:5 and notice the word remain. It indicates and identifies a challenging task for each and every one of us—to not only let Jesus take the lead, but also to allow Jesus to keep that lead at all times. John 15:5 also reveals a key condition for all of us who decide to play on God’s team: it is only through staying connected to God that the fruit-bearing occurs. He’s making it clear that we’ll never be able to accomplish anything meaningful for God without a connection to His Son.
Jesus knows that we may start off obeying His game plan but then be tempted to give up on it at some point. Jesus clearly warns that whenever we try to live according to our own set of rules, plans, or opinions, we are getting set to accomplish large amounts of nothing.
Are There Many Ways to Play on God’s Team?
There is only one way to play on God’s team—His way. Knowing that the game plan of Christ is the only one that will work for His team is an important aspect to grasp because we live in a world that tends to ignore this truth. Many people, rather than depending solely on the Bible’s instructions, have chosen to trust their own instincts when determining what Jesus will or will not accept from them.
For example, this is how some athletes become what I like to call game-day Christians. They don’t really pray or read Scripture that much during the week, but on game day, that’s when God gets a lot of attention. I used to be like this myself. I wanted protection from injury, the vision on the field, and a victory all wrapped up in one big blessing. During the week, however, I just wanted my food blessed. I was not aware how silly it was for me to think that I could ignore Jesus all week long, and then—like a football genie— He’d grant all my game-day wishes just because I “believed in Him.” It wasn’t true of Jesus then, and it is still not true of Him today.
Many athletes in the world still try and pull this off. It’s like they are trying to redefine the way following Christ works. However, no one can change what God’s Word says and has already defined as acceptable when it comes to membership on God’s team. Our earthly opinions will never be able to replace God-breathed Scripture. As a Christian, the Bible alone—without twisting, manipulating, or tailoring it—must be our ultimate source of truth and guidance. It alone is the completed perfect game plan of God. The Bible is the only acceptable way to play for His team. All other methods fail if they try to replace or compromise God’s truth.
If life is the game, then the Bible is the perfect playbook. Much more on the playbook later, but for now, let me say this: without one, it is utterly impossible to play on God’s team.
When people accept Christ and join His team but then make a lifelong continued effort to play by their own rules, they’ll eventually become players He cannot use. By ignoring the game plan of God, you are cutting yourself off from the team. Jesus says it like this: “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned” (John 15:6).
Choosing to live by our own rules is like walking up to Jesus and saying, “I’m sorry, Coach. I love being on your team, but I just don’t like certain parts of your game plan. So I’ll just go with mine instead—but I’m still gonna need your blessings on my plans, Big Guy.” If this is your approach to the biblical plan of God, then you need to consider yourself a withered branch disconnected from the tree. Nowhere in Scripture do we read about a Jesus who allows us to ignore Him yet use and abuse His power.
A Christian athlete is defined by the fact that he or she strives to follow Christ each and every day, because for each of them every day is game day.
You Get Out What You Put In
On any team, it is not the game plan alone that determines success, but also the effort given toward executing it. As Christians, we face an opponent who gives maximum effort every day. Satan’s team plays with relentless effort bent on destroying the lives of Christians. Knowing this, what sense does it make for us to give poor effort in fighting back? Would you give poor effort toward preparing for a championship game in your sport—against the strongest team on the schedule—and still expect to win? Of course not. Poor effort doesn’t produce wins for you on your sports teams, and it will not produce spiritual victories on Gods’ team either—and we must never expect it to.
Well, the table is definitely set. It’s time to dig in. Let’s take a time-out, recharge, and get ready for the next session.
From here on out, I want you to think of Christians as individuals who form Team Jesus. This is God’s team, and individual Chris- tians are the players. Never forget that we are always playing as long as we are alive! And never forget that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are always coaching.
It is important that we never take the game of life lightly! Satan, like any other opponent, would love for you to underestimate him. You have to be willing to give your best to Jesus and commit to His plan at all times. Sounds like hard work, right? Well, at times it can be. But as an athlete, we are no strangers to hard work. We know that it takes our best to be successful, to be a champion. Sure, it’s hard work … but winning always makes it worth it. So plan to win at the game of life. Our coach has guaranteed us victory if we trust Him.
- What are your thoughts about the fact that Satan is constantly at work, with the agenda of discouraging you? How might knowing this change the way you choose to prepare for the game of life each day?
- Romans 8:37 says that we are “more than conquerours” in Christ Jesus. How does this make you feel when you read it? Do you feel like a champion spiritually? Why or why not?
- If God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are your spiritual head coaches, how would you describe your relationship with all three? Is communication with them good or not so good? Why?
- Do you feel like your life is currently mostly run by God’s plan or your own? What changes need to be made to give Jesus complete control of your life?
Watch the Wrap-Up Video
To watch the wrap-up video, go to www.tcstallings.com, and on the “Playing on God’s Team” page, click “Wrap-Up Vids.” Then watch the video entitled Session #2: Now, Let’s Set the Table.
T.C. Stallings is a former professional athlete now finding success in film and television. After stunning football campaigns in both high school and college, T.C. went on to play professionally in the Arena, Europe, and Canadian leagues. Following his success in athletics, T.C.’s desires shifted to a career in film and television. Some of his film credits include Courageous, War Room, God’s Compass, and Unbridled. In 2019, he wrote, directed, and self-produced a documentary called 24 Counter: The Story Behind the Run, which was nominated for “Most Inspirational Documentary” by the ICFF. Learn more at TCStallings.life
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