Auburn’s head football coach Gene Chizik surprises me.
I’ve heard him give credit to God several times after football games—“it was a God thing.”
But does that mean anything? You can’t believe faith is genuine every time a player or coach tosses in God’s name to punctuate a victory speech.
But what about Chizik?
For real or imposter?
After reading his book All In, I’ll bank on for real.
I expect a lot of football stats in a book by a football coach—and there are—but frankly, the faith stands out more than the football. Over and over Chizik refers to his belief in Jesus as his driving force, higher than his desire to win (and that’s high).
Winning or losing, he wants to please God.
While he doesn’t force his beliefs on his players, he encourages them to learn the character traits that come with Christianity: loyalty, respect, work ethic, family. Greatness not just as football players, but greatness as fathers, sons, brothers, workers. Real life stuff.
He chronicles his two years at Iowa State, a 5-19 record. Even though there were difficult times, he values the faith lessons he learned there about trusting God, regardless of what the numbers say. He and his wife Jonna both speak about being in the Word, praying, and valuing a faith family.
Jonna writes in the Afterword:
Though the outside world might not have viewed it this way, the first real championship game was won in Ames, Iowa, because it was there that God redefined the meaning of success for the Chizik family.
It was there that God showed us that as long as you are in the center of his will, you have already succeeded.
Chizik’s first season as head coach of the Auburn Tigers in 2009 goes well (8-5), but his “good to great” 2010 season (14-0) ends with winning the BCS National Championship game 22-19 on January 10, 2011.
He has taken some flak for his opening postgame statement after defeating Oregon Ducks for the championship: “First of all, I can’t be more blessed to be part of a whole team like this. Man, God was with us.”
So I like how he responds in the book with this:
When I say it was a God thing, I’m not really talking about the game.
I watched our players grow through the year as a team and as a family, as well as spiritually.
God blessed our team, and I would have said it was a God thing even if we had lost to Oregon or if we had finished the season with a 4-8 record.
He ends the book with four steps to follow on “Overcoming Your Own 5-19”:
1. Go by God’s definition of success, not the world’s.
2. Make a copy of Psalm 33:9-12 and display it to read every day. Remember that God’s intentions can never be shaken.
3. Choose carefully the people you listen to and who will be in your circle.
4. Borrow a page from the Auburn Tigers’ playbook and be “all in.”
Be all in for God.
At all times. In all circumstances. Be all in for him in great times, in bad times, in mediocre times.
That means not letting circumstances change who you are, what you do, and what you believe in.
I still can’t say for sure what’s in Gene Chizik’s heart—only God sees that. But his value of God’s Word definitely inspires. I want to be “all in” too.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
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