Craig Brian Larson, editor of preachingtoday.com, tells an insightful story about how rookies make the team.
The 2010 website of the Chicago Bears football team presented a series of videos that followed the team’s rookies from their first arrival at training camp and on through the preseason. One video showed part of coach Lovie Smith’s first orientation talk with the rookie class.
Of course, the biggest thing on each rookie’s mind is whether he will make the team. Rookies know that the team roster begins with 80 players who come to camp. After a few weeks the coaches cut the team down to 65 players. Then before the season actually begins all NFL teams are required to trim down to 53 players. Of the 19 rookies who were invited to the 2010 Bears training camp, the team would likely keep only around 7.
Lovie Smith knew that, and so he addressed the rookies’ concern in his talk to the 2010 class.His challenge to them was, “Make us put you on the team.”
In other words, play so well in practice that the coaches couldn’t imagine cutting you. Make us put you on the team. Take the decision out of the coach’s hands. Let your performance make the decision for us.
Most religions and most people of the world think that God makes the same sort of speech about who will get into heaven. “Do you want to ‘make the team’ and have eternal life? Make me put you on the team. Live such a good life, do so many good deeds, that I could not imagine rejecting you. Take the decision out of my hands.”
The counterintuitive truth is that God works on a completely different basis than football coaches do. People who think they can perform so well that they can make God add them to heaven’s roster because they are so deserving of it will be rejected. This is the idea of salvation by works, and it is the opposite of salvation by grace. God saves us by his grace and his grace alone, through faith in Jesus Christ.