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There is only one way to play football — 110% effort every play, all the way to the end of the fourth quarter.  You lay it all down on that field.  Then you crawl off the field after the final gun with nothing left to give.  Football must be played with wholehearted abandon.  It’s the nature of the game.  It prepares us for life.

If I could change the Bible, all I would do is add “play high school football” to the qualifications for elders.  Men who have experienced such intense effort, hurling themselves into every play, especially as a team sport — such men understand what ministry demands and how good it feels to give their all for a cause greater than self.

Of course, there are other ways God provides for men to punch through to the experience of total abandon.  Football is not the only way.  But every man needs some kind of experience like this, to become the warrior God wants him to be.

There is only one way to serve Christ — all-out passion.  Passive men don’t understand, men who are afraid they might get knocked down or hurt.  Christianity must be lived with wholehearted abandon.  It’s the nature of the faith.  It prepares us for eternity.

Men with a whole heart — joy awaits them!

“Blessed are those who seek Him with their whole heart.”  Psalm 119:2

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5 thoughts on “Men with a whole heart”

  1. Stephen T says:

    I’m trying to reconcile some of the images that this post creates … images of “intense effort”, of “crawling off the field”, of ministry as “demanding”, of a warrior filled with outward passion and abandon … with images that, for me, characterize the daily life of Jesus as portrayed in the gospels.

    I must admit there is some disconnect.

    Perhaps “wholeheartedness” is the best unifying idea that you are trying to get across, and one in which I completely agree. I agree that in one form or another, wholeheartedness is a real key to the Christian life. I can also see how the human experience of exerting 110% effort in a team sport like football could be an extremely valuable lesson for meeting life’s obstacles, and for furthering ones understanding of wholeheartedness in some contexts. But to suggest that a necessary wholeheartedness, by definition, correlates to this outward form abandon, effort, and passion … that correlation falls a little short for me.

    I believe that central to the wholeheartedness that Jesus possessed is the reality that “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.” The wholeheartedness is devoted to the purpose of union and resulting fruit, not for purpose of God-ward abandon as a means for productive ministry ends. Does this wholeheartedness sometimes call for a perseverance that asks for all of our strength, and then some? Yes! But let us include in this exhausting of our strength such things as the perseverance of patience, the perseverance of forsaking, of loving, and of trusting. The older I get, (I’m 43), the more I’m coming to understand that “believing” is the hardest thing there is to do. Be wholehearted in believing that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and the rest will surely follow. For then “God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

    And perhaps there is a kind of passivity that “does understand”, but we won’t get into that now.

    Thanks for helping me to grapple with these concepts.

  2. Awesome post Ray!

    This just made my day!

    Thanks for this!


  3. I love this post. Guys sure are prepared for leadership by playing a sport such as football. It might be a stretch to require elders to “Play High School Football”, but I love the ambition of asking men to “Man Up” and be men who charge forward with passion for Christ and his Church. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him”. And men who ‘arrive’ at satisfaction in God have fooled themselves in thinking that they can ever be completely satisfied in Him in this life. Meaning we have to keep pressing in and into Him by pressing forward too. I think that is what the apostle Paul meant when he said “forgetting what is behind, I press on to reach the GOAL for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. UH OH maybe we have to change that sport to Soccer (Reference to GOAL). Great post!

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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