Why God Wants Me to Watch the Patriots (and How Bill Belichik Taught Me to Tell Time)

Are you ever torn about how to respond to a situation?

Does it sometimes frustrate you trying to figure out if someone needs tough love at a given moment or mercy and compassion?

Yeah, me too.

This week I was privileged to hear former Celtic player, Chris Herren, talk about his book, Basketball Junkie, that chronicles his journey through drug addiction to recovery.

I was fascinated when he explained that at Boston College, he was treated with tough love for his substance abuse – three strikes and he was out. At Fresno State, his problem was treated with compassion, counseling, and understanding. Neither approach worked.

Then, his drug use was curbed when he played for the Denver Nuggets because those teammates were tough, kept him accountable, and were “all over him” all the time. Curbed but not cured. Because, when he played for the Celtics, that kind of firm-handed support was non-existent, and he lost all control of his addiction.

Wow. Chris’s testimony highlighted for me the complex nature of responding effectively to difficult situations. This morning, I read this in Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”

That’s great but, how do we KNOW what time it is?

For that answer, I have to refer to what I’ve learned from another sports figure, Coach Bill Belichik of the New England Patriots.

You see, NFL players love football. They’re talented, fit, experienced, knowledgeable, motivated, and well-trained but in the midst of a game, they still need the voice of a coach in their ear calling the plays.


When I mentioned loving the Patriots, one gentleman teased me about quarterback, Tom Brady, being my hero.

“Brady? That kid? My hero? No way,” I responded. My football hero is the coach behind Tom Brady. Brady’s got the moves but Belichik tells him when to employ them.

Just as brilliant football players need the voice of the coach in their ears, so do believers need to be tuned in to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit in order to know what response each life situation requires.

Does the person weeping at your kitchen table need a kick in the pants and the counsel to “suck it up” or does she need a hug, a listening ear, and hundred-dollar bill?

Does that teen need a break this time and grace or is this the moment to draw the hard line?

Even with ourselves, we sometimes struggle to know if we should push ourselves to work harder when we’re stressed and tired or if a rest and a quiet escape are the order of the day.

Prayer isn’t some long-distance call that should only occur when we wish to “login” with God before meetings or “log off” at the end of our morning devotions.
 Prayer should be like wearing a Bluetooth equipped helmet so that God is in our ear every moment calling the next play.
 We’re standing on the field but He’s got the long view.
 Paul was an early quarterback in the pursuit of building the kingdom of God. He tells us this in Philippians 4: 5b-7:“The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Pray about everything. Rest in knowing that the Holy Spirit’s voice is so close, no amount of chaos can drown it out when we need it most.

Left to my own thinking, it would never have occurred to me that God might want me to take some time off from serious study on Sundays to take in a Patriots game. But when the voice in your ear says, “Are you ready for some football?” and you respond by kicking back and switching on the game, surprises are definitely in order.

If I hadn’t watched some football, I might never have learned how to tell time. Observing the relationship of Coach Belichik with his players more deeply impressed on me the importance of maintaining constant contact with God in prayer than any book I’ve ever read on the subject.

Now, I rest in knowing that the best way to know what time it is is to check in with the only Coach who always knows the answer.
 To everything there is a season –tough love, mercy, compassion, even football.

Does anyone really know what time it is? The Coach with the long view knows. Tune in and He’ll be happy to call the plays in your game.

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3 Comments

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  1. I struggle with this issue SO MUCH!

    It takes so much wisdom to parent three boys…and since God threw Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism, and Bipolar Disorder into our mix, plus widely disparate personality types, it takes a level of wisdom that’s WAY out of my league.

    And since I’ve been homeschooling the boys (who are NOT easy to deal with), and struggling with whether or not to continue that effort,(one boy actually started back at public school this week, and another is requesting the same and will start ASAP), who’s to say what is best? Tough love? Gentle understanding? Sometimes they respond well to either or both…but they also know how to meet tough love with tough rage, and how to exploit grace in shameless ways. When should I use which? Was I wrong if they misused/refused the one I offered? How am I to know?

    Add to all of this my own personality quirks, and my struggles with sin, and my baggage from my past (not to mention the challenges of marriage and health issues), and my need for guidance is out of this world!

    And since I belong to the Reformed branch of Christianity (by choice, not upbringing), I’ve got many Reformed voices telling me that God leads ONLY through the Bible… which is the ONLY Reformed tenet I cannot accept (though I acknowledge the dangers of going too far in the other direction).

    What’s a body to do? God’s guidance is not always clear…at least not to me. God’s Word commands and models different approaches in different situations. There is no formula, except to pray and to trust and to obey to the best of my ability in the gray areas.

    Lord, teach me to follow!

    (Sorry to go on so long…I think you struck a nerve!)

  2. Betsy, we have so much in common! I am newly retired from homeschooling but we faced similar challenges. Even now, I encounter daily people who like to push and test limits. God’s will is, indeed, not always clear but I’ve used as my guide, James 1:5, the Philippians passage and the discipline of applying grace to myself when I make mistakes. God’s word is the guide, the one true measure, but the Holy Spirit moves and prompts so we must stay in tune with God through His word and through constant prayer in order to know which word to apply in which situation. Praying for all of your transition! Lori

  3. Wonderful analogies, Lori! Personally, I prefer the hugs and listening ears and you keep the hundred – win/win.