Sunday Reflections – Go Against the Flow

Did you see the play in the Super Bowl with just over a minute to go in the game when New England LET the Giants score a touchdown? The commentators called it a calculated risk. New England thought that having the football with a minute to go and having to score a touchdown gave them better odds than having it with about 20 seconds and trying to score a field goal. (Turns out they were right… but the catches just weren’t made.) I’ve been watching football for a lot of years, and this is the first time I’ve heard of a team allowing another team to get a touchdown. Though I understand the thinking behind the decision, it still seems counterintuitive to me. In other words, it went against the flow of my thinking about football.

Switch sports to baseball. Moneyball is a basically a story about a general manager who decides to build a team based on statistics. Everyone, except the economist working for him, thought he was making a huge mistake. Everyone was wrong. Turns out that his counterintuitive decision was right on the money. Billy Beane went against the flow of conventional baseball wisdom, and it ended up changing baseball forever.

Sometimes, going against the flow creates a paradigm shift on a major level, and sometimes it occurs on a more personal level. The following 4 principles will help guide you in making a paradigm shift in your life in a way that not only will help refresh and renew your perspective but also draw you closer to the One who loves you more than anyone else. And who knows, maybe you’ll be the catalyst for large scale change at the same time.

  1. Acknowledge limits. Our culture is one of pushing limits. The sports world is a perfect example. How fast can the mile be run? How many touchdowns can one person make in a season? Who can jump the highest or farthest? No matter what records are broken, the new limit becomes the goal. But the truth of the matter is that we do have limits. We are not God who is limitless. Limits are something to be thankful for because they allow us to enjoy life without consequences (think weight control and traffic signs). Intentionally setting limits on desires and pleasures allows us to stay balanced and healthy in body, mind and spirit.  It’s also counter-cultural.
  2. Raise expectations. There is always someone who isn’t doing as well as you in some area, and it’s easy to get a false sense of your superiority when looking at others. Comparisons are dangerous, yet our culture promotes them like crazy. (Just pay attention to advertising to see this.) Comparisons create a false sense of reality, and they can lead to pride in feeling like improvement is no longer necessary. But when we realize that Jesus is the bull’s-eye, we understand that there is always room for improvement. He is the standard by which we should measure our lives because only he is perfect. In doing so, our expectations are raised, and we have new goals to strive for. Forgetting comparisons is certainly not mainstream thinking.
  3. Be separate. Holiness is a Bible word that many think means perfection. But holiness is not about being perfect, it’s about being separate. In other words, avoid conforming to the world. Avoid walking the path of destruction. Be an example of one who is aiming for Jesus. Others will consider you odd, but their approval isn’t what matters. The question we must ask ourselves is, “Does God approve of my life?” if the answer is yes, then we are living lives of separation and not conformity. Seeking God’s approval over man’s approval goes against the flow.
  4. Make relationships priority. Limits and rules exist for our safety, but they mean little more than restriction and confinement without relationship. Parents can discipline kids, but kids won’t truly aim for obedience if the relationship is weak. The book of Leviticus is all about establishing rules for the safety of the Israelites. While they focused on God, the rules weren’t a big deal to follow. But as soon as they took their eyes off of him, they rules were something to rebel against and meant little to them. Relationship makes following the rules worthwhile because they protect the relationship. Focusing on relationship over self does not support the thinking of our “me first” society.

Jesus himself went against conventional wisdom of His day, and in doing so He certainly ruffled some feathers. He definitely changed the way people think. Peter is one example (Acts 10:1-48; 15:6-11) and Paul is another (Galatians 2:1-12; 3:23-4:7; 1 Corinthians 9:20-22). As John Carty noted in Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life, “It’s not easy to overcome the training and traditions of a lifetime,” but this is often exactly what Christ led Peter and Paul to do. He calls us to do the same.

DISCUSSION: How do you adapt when God asks you to adjust a habit, attitude or behavioral pattern in your life?

Note: The above discussion question is taken from the chapter on “Adaptability” in Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life.