What I Learned Through Nevada Wolfpack Football
by Steve Backlund
I love sports and have learned so much through participating in and coaching sports through the years. Athletics has the power to teach us vital character skills for life: teamwork, commitment, leadership, hard work, mental focus in times of pressure, overcoming adversity, dealing with defeat, finding your role within a team, and developing the ability to be coached.
Many years ago the Lord spoke to me about spiritual growth through my favorite collegiate sports team, The University of Nevada Wolf Pack. Their college football team moved to NCAA Division 1A in 1992 after a very successful stint in the lower division 1AA. Initially, after advancing to this highest NCAA competition level in collegiate football, they did not "succeed" as well as they had in 1AA. Initially after graduating to the highest NCAA competition level in collegiate football, they did not "succeed" as well as they had in 1AA. The better teams they played against exposed their weaknesses and shortcomings, and they started to lose much more than they had in the past. Some would say that it was a poor decision to move up to this higher level of competition because there was more apparent failure than before. After all, isn't the goal of sports (and life) to never fail or even appear to be losing? Let's just laugh at that – HA HA!
I attended a Wolf Pack football game in 2005 when they were playing Fresno State, a highly ranked team in their division. Though Nevada was the big underdog of the game, they won! It was a victory that proved they belonged at this higher level of competition. As I reflected on this, I heard the Lord say to me, "Steve, I want you to lead a Division 1 life and ministry. I want you to go a higher level and not be afraid of what may appear like failure as you do."
Those who succeed most also seem to fail most. Winston Churchill said, "Success is moving from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm." We must understand that as we "grow into" our true potential, we won't do it perfectly at first. Just as a toddler "fails" many times in learning to walk, we too will struggle as we seek to walk in Division 1, or top level joy, hope, heart connections, and greater discipline in our lives. If we do not embrace struggle as part of the process, we will lower our lifestyle and ministry down to a level that is comfortable for us (and never reach our true potential).
The Nevada Wolf Pack's decision to pursue a higher level has taught me to not be afraid of the process and time it takes to "belong" at a new, higher level. My prayer is that you too will embrace this process and any seeming "failures" you may experience on the journey to greater growth and maturity the Lord is calling you to. May you discover that He's calling you to this higher place because you were made not only to exist at this level, but succeed and thrive there.
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ABOUT STEVE BACKLUND
Steve Backlund was a senior pastor for seventeen years before joining the team at Bethel Church in Redding, CA in 2008. Steve is a leader developer, joy activist, a revivalist teacher, and as Senior Associate Director, is a key part of the Global Legacy (a ministry of Bethel Church) leadership team. He travels extensively throughout the world encouraging churches and leaders and has authored a number of books.