If we enjoy watching team sports, we will often hear coaches talk about how good their practices are. If they are interviewed before a game, they will often equate their chances of winning the game with how good their practices are. Coaches know that the quality of the practices usually determine the quality of their team’s play in the actual game. Therefore, coaches often work as hard at motivating their teams for practice as they do for the game itself.
The most successful teams probably spend 95 percent of every practice on the fundamentals of their sport. The most successful people in any sport, business, or profession will almost always be those who know and practice the fundamentals best. One reason why I like to go to PGA golf tournaments is because they give you access to the practice range and putting greens so you can watch the professionals practice. Their practice is at times astonishing and can be amazingly creative. They have a multitude of ways to make practicing the basics interesting. Every day of our lives is our practice, and the Lord helps to make them infinitely interesting. Embrace life, and resolve to never waste a trial, but grow through it.
Even though PGA golfers seem to be amazingly creative in how they make their practices interesting, it is also amazing how serious they are when they practice. I was watching two of the best-known golfers on the putting green a couple of years ago and noticed that they were competing against each other with every practice putt, and even betting on each putt. I wondered if they were just addicted to gambling, but then found out it was not about winning the money, which was very little to them, but it was another way to motivate themselves to make every practice putt effective. Likewise, at the driving range usually there will be a couple competing on who can hit a certain yardage sign out of a designated number of drives. Any small thing like this can be used to hone their skills and make practices more effective.
I used to occasionally speak to NFL teams in their chapel before games and was always amazed at their focus and pre-game preparation. I watched linemen beating their heads against lockers because they were so intent on getting out on the field to hit their foes. Their focus just before the game was scary. Once, when I was speaking to the Denver Broncos before a game, I heard the Lord say to me that when He saw that kind of resolve and focus on His people, the Kingdom would be near. I have never forgotten that, and I look at every crowd where I speak in order to gauge their focus. Lately, I have begun to see this kind of focus, resolve, and seriousness at some of our conferences.
Once I went up to see the Washington Redskins play their rival, the Dallas Cowboys, in a Monday night game. I stayed at the home of a friend who played for the Redskins, but he could not stay with us because the entire team had to stay at a local hotel the night before the game so that they could stay focused. I could not help but consider that if we ever started getting that serious about training and preparation for our church services that people would soon be packing out churches like they do stadiums for football games. We are going for a much greater prize than a Super Bowl trophy! A single soul is worth far more than any sports championship. When we wake up to the prize that we are running for, the focus will result in a faith that will begin to move mountains.
General Patton, one of the greatest field commanders in World War II, attributed his victories to the high level of training his men received. They were so prepared and disciplined that it opened up strategies that other commanders did not even consider possible, but Patton pulled them off. Patton almost never credited his victories with strategy, but with the training of his men. Great spiritual commanders will do the same.