Since the start of the 2010 season in American college football, the University of Oregon Ducks have won more games than any other team. Growing up in Oregon I heard radio broadcasts of the horrible teams of the 1970s and early 1980s. I remember this awful game. It is fun to see them actually be good. In a YouTube age, even here I can watch games a few days later. (I just learned that the pastor doing my son’s wedding is an Alabama fan. I thought he was a friend, but you just never know what secrets people have, do you? Perhaps as a true son of Oregon I should skip the wedding? :))
I was intrigued to hear what one coach said about the “Oregon Standard.” He said they view every opponent as a “faceless” opponent — it doesn’t matter who they are, the goal is to “play to our standard.” When asked what that standard is, he said their standard is “never reached, always moving, and always personal.”
It struck me that it is just like the Christian life. It doesn’t matter what opposition we face, what temptations come our way, what human instruments may be used in the temptations we face, if we remember that our standard is to please the Lord, the opposition becomes “faceless.” In the Christian life, what matters is that we keep our focus on the standard, spiritual excellence and pleasing the Lord, and pursue it no matter what.
The standard is never reached — we’ll never be perfect in this life, never truly “arrive” at that point where we have fully done that which pleases Him. There will always be room for improvement.
The standard is always moving. The challenge is always more spiritual growth, more knowledge of the Word, more love for God and others. What would have constituted progress a year ago would now be stagnation or worse. What we could not have achieved in the past, we should and must achieve now.
And, the standard is personal. God does not expect me to do what He expects you to achieve. We have different tasks, different challenges, different abilities, different circumstances, and so the working out of that universal standard (pleasing the Lord) will be very different, very personal, for every one of us. The similarities will be greater than the differences, but the differences will be very real.
The Oregon coaches have had great success in instilling in their students a philosophy which drives them on to ever-improving performances on the football field. That philosophy arises from recognising principles which God established in the nature of the people He created, and those same principles apply both to spiritual growth and to sporting prowess — and many other endeavours in this life.
The Oregon coaches are developing strong character traits which, for good or ill, will help those students achieve their goals in life. If they strive for good goals, they will be much better equipped to reach those goals by the mental discipline they have learned. Sadly, if they strive for unprofitable goals, they will also be better able to reach those. And if any of the students are Christians and apply those principles to the Christian life, they will profit greatly, just as we will, if we keep “pressing toward the mark.”
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.