Tony Dungy - God's Superbowl Hero
Recently I was watching the 41st American Football Superbowl on TV when the Indianapolis Colts played the Chicago Bears. As a South African born and bred on rugby, I have found an increasing enjoyment of the American watered down version. This year I was routing for the Indy Colts to win and after four quarters of tough American football in the rain my preferred team won! But, it wasn’t the game that really got me excited - it’s what happened at the handing over of the Vince Lombardi Trophy that really spoke to me.
As I watched the presentation of the trophy to the winners my interest was pricked when the owner of the Indianapolis Colts franchise thanked God for their victory, and for forging them into a team, and that he wanted all the glory to go to God. He then handed the trophy to the head coach Tony Dungy who also thanked the Lord for the victory and for helping them successfully negotiate the season.
When Tony was asked what he felt about being the first African American head coach to win the Superbowl, he replied that although he was extremely proud of representing the African American coaches and excited to be the first, he was more proud of the fact that he and fellow coach Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears were able to show the world that being a Christian coach and doing it the Lord’s way doesn’t mean you can’t succeed at the highest level. I sat up when I heard that and listened with great interest what the news and sports commentators where going to say of Tony and his comments. Every year the Superbowl is watched by over a billion viewers and is the biggest sporting event in America. I was curious to see if the commentators were going to take offence to Tony’s open testimony of the God he serves.
As I watched the comments being made on Prime Time and SportCenter after the game it became abundantly clear that Tony was a true ambassador for Christ and that his faith and integrity are admired and respected by most. At one point I wondered if I was watching a church service because one by one each commentator praised Tony’s ethics, his way of dealing with his players and his faith that clearly is witnessed and respected by the players. The men acknowledged that all these elements, together with his uncompromising family life and work ethic, led the team to success.
It was starting to sound like the kind of comments you hear at a funeral where people say what they admired in the deceased but this time it was the world admiring a Christian’s lifestyle and commenting on how refreshing it is! I hope people all over can learn from this kind of example. After reading up about Tony and being reminded of Paul the Apostle’s words were he said “follow me as I follow Christ” I truly believe that Tony Dungy can use those words in the area of sports. We have seen so many bad examples of Christian testimony in the sporting arena and then we have seen the real disciples of Christ living out their faith in their work place, which is the sporting world.
I believe there are some lessons that athletes and sports professionals can learn from Tony Dungy in fact, lessons that all of us should learn. Tony’s testimony was really powerful because:
He is humble
As Tony spoke and commentated he acknowledged all who went before, his peers and his team but also he did not diminish his own contribution. I believe many Christians find themselves on one of two extremes either they focus on how great they are or how awesome God is and how totally insignificant they are almost bordering on false humility. God has done what he has done through you, you are his vessel and He values you, so value yourself but acknowledge your total dependence on God. “…All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5
Tony has been to the playoffs with his team numerous times over the last couple of years never being able to take them that one step further. But this year his perseverance paid off and they went all the way. People respect those who push through and fight adversity, we often don’t want to be those people but we admire and appreciate those who are. It sends a message that it is possible and that certainly, as Christians, should be our testimony. For sports and in life we have to know how to lose and learn from loss and get stronger, smarter and quicker. Romans 5:3-5 says “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Tony never wavered from his faith in God, his faith in his family and his belief in what he was doing. Those were the comments of sports presenters as they commented on this achievement. This is something that we need to learn. So many people prioritise work over their family and family over their relationship with God. In life it should never be an either or if we fail to find the Godly balance between God, family and work we will lose out in one area and will have no testimony at all. We need to remain deeply committed to God, we need to love and spend time with our families and we need to work hard as unto the Lord. In Ecclesiastes 3:1, the Bible tells us that “there is a time for everything under the sun.” That means we need to prioritise the things we believe in and hold dear to them because there is time for them to come to pass. As we sow these seeds and trust God in faith, He will bless them.
He lives by his beliefs
Tony is an example of someone living out what he says he believes. In an interview, Tony said the following: “Football is a profession that is judged by performance and results. However, those things come and go so quickly that as a coach, I have to base my career on something more. The inspiration for my coaching model comes from Jesus. He has taught me that my job is more than just showing my guys how to block and tackle. It's also about influence. I want to show both players and fans that being a Christian and being successful are not mutually exclusive. We tend to think head coaches have to be cutthroat, squeezing everything possible out of their players. I disagree. Players want to win. If I provide them with a good environment, show them how it's done, and encourage them, we're going to have a team - and a record - that we can be proud of.”
2 John 1:6 “…And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”
One of the main reasons why people don’t accept Jesus as there Saviour is because they say that Christians are hypocrites. Whilst Christians aren’t perfect and this kind of comment is often a smoke screen, it is vital that we live out our faith in a real, genuine and authentic way on the sports field, in the work place and every other area where we live out our lives. The testimony of Tony as observed by others is that he is consistent and lives out his beliefs in every area. Thank you Tony for your example. Thank you for showing us a God honouring testimony and I know that many people all around the world would have been spoken to by your character and godliness. I know I was.
Using your influence for Christ
Looking at the Superbowl achievement and seeing Tony Dungy’s testimony shining through, that achievement, has left me wondering how many Christians have the opportunity to make a difference for Jesus but don’t.
In Galatians 6:10 it says “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people…” The point is we all have the opportunity to influence others and make a stand for the Kingdom of God, although we have opportunity, too many of us fail to take them. I was chatting to a friend who was telling me why she recommitted her life to Jesus, she said that she was at a weekend retreat when a friend who knew her quite well was amazed to find out that she is a Christian. Her friend told her she would never have known.
My friend told me that as she heard those words she was reminded of Jesus words which say “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26 She recommitted her life to the Lord and made a decision to use whatever opportunity she had to using her influence in life to make a difference in this world for Jesus Christ. We all have influence and it’s crucial that we use it for God, we need to move away from a “Sunday only” Christian mentality.
In the book of Esther we read about Queen Esther who was placed in an influential position to effectively save the Jewish nation from an evil man Haman who was bent on trying to wipe out the Jews. She had the opportunity to use her position of influence. Before she took the step of faith, which was accompanied by great risk, the words of Mordecai galvanized her resolve. Est 4:14
“If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?"
Who knows if you are in your job for such a time as this, who knows if you are in your family for such a time as this. Use your position of influence and make a difference for Jesus in your world. God is wanting to set up ‘Superbowl moments’ so have faith for that and be determined to be a part of the team that makes it happen.
A.W. Tozer said “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible – what a pity that we plan only the things we can do by ourselves.” Here are some practical pointers that will help you to use your influence for God:
- Keep Jesus as your motivation. 2 Cor 4:5 “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Do what you do because of your love for Jesus. He sees.
Look for the right moment – not the “perfect” moment. There will never be a perfect moment. Gal 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
- Refuse to listen to your fears. We’re afraid of making someone mad or hurting someone’s feelings. And that’s where faith comes in. Faith says, “I’m going to believe God that the truth, spoken in love, is always going to be the best way for me to handle any situation.” Just make sure that what you speak is the truth and not just your opinion. Ps 34:4 “I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears.”
- Be patient for a response. When we present the good news to people, they too will be forced to choose between opposing voices in their lives. It won’t be easy. Rom 8:25 “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”
- Trust God for results. God can change seemingly unchangeable people and situations. No one is beyond His reach, and nothing is impossible for Him. Heb 6:15 “And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.”
As Christians if we use our influence in this way we will definitely score a God given touchdown!!