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Guts, Grace, and Glory: A Football Devotional

Guts, Grace, and Glory: A Football Devotional

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by Jim Grassi

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When everything is on the line, great men turn to strength and faith—in football and in life.

In Guts, Grace, and Glory Dr. Jim Grassi shows how to incorporate faith and endurance on a daily basis—not just to win at football, but to win at life. Anecdotes from the greatest players in the game—Johnny Unitas, Tim Tebow, Paul Bear Bryant


When everything is on the line, great men turn to strength and faith—in football and in life.

In Guts, Grace, and Glory Dr. Jim Grassi shows how to incorporate faith and endurance on a daily basis—not just to win at football, but to win at life. Anecdotes from the greatest players in the game—Johnny Unitas, Tim Tebow, Paul Bear Bryant, RGIII, Bryan "Bart" Starr, Matt Hasselbeck, and more—and their coaches demonstrate how glory, on and off the field, hinges on a solid relationship with God and the guts with which one plays out life’s challenges. The book touches on several life-affirming topics including setting your heart and mind on the eternal, living your life as a model of Christ, and building a legacy that lasts.

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Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
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6.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)

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Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2013 Dr. James E. Grassi
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4003-2089-9




TO SOME, "JUST DO IT" IS A CATCHY PHRASE FOR A SPORTS APPAREL COMPANY. To Robert Griffin III, that phrase has more meaning and purpose. When it was announced that Robert Griffin III was the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner, Baylor fans erupted in cheers of great joy. The man known as "RG3" is the first Heisman winner in Baylor history. In leading Baylor to its first nine-win season since 1986, RG3 threw passes for a new school record of 3,998 yards and 36 touchdowns. He also rushed for 644 yards with 9 touchdowns.

After ESPN pundits have called him "the Most Interesting Man in College Football." A model student-athlete and an obedient, loyal son, RG3 is one of the truly great stories to come out of football in the past decade.

Robert is the youngest of three children whose parents were both Army officers serving overseas. The discipline and commitment to excellence modeled by his loving parents set the stage for his faith, ideals, and family values and contributed to the development of his great character.

When Robert's dad, Robert II, was suddenly deployed to Iraq on the eve of his well-deserved retirement from the Army, it set in motion a series of events that pushed RG3 to become a great student-athlete. Some people take the lemons life gives them and cry over them—others find a way to make some sweet lemonade, which seemed to be the standard RG3 applied to his father's deployment.

The discipline of working hard and studying well prepared RG3 for the task of leading the Baylor Bears in their quest to become a top-ranked team. Robert's practices and study of the game became a model for other aspiring athletes. It was reported that RG3 probably studied more film than most of the coaches. His dad taught him to deal with the unexpected and to prepare himself fully for the challenges life brings. Many of the drills his father invoked challenged RG3 to think outside the box and develop a calm instinct to alarming situations.

Somehow throughout all of this RG3 endeavors to keep a perspective by pointing to heaven after each touchdown. Unlike some high-profile athletes who forget about others, his work with organizations like Friends for Life, which assists seniors and adults with disabilities, and as a coach for kids associated with the Special Olympics helps Robert remain humble and appreciative of God's blessings on his life.

At a time in our culture when most athletes are trying to compete for time in the spotlight, Robert shines it on God, his family, teammates, and coaches. "[God] gives you a stage to make a difference and not to just talk about yourself, but lift Him up. There are a lot of different types of Christians everywhere, but my biggest thing is it's not our job to judge; it's just our job to go out, praise Him, let people know what He's doing, and let people follow if they want to."

Upon reflecting on his faith RG3 also states, "I praise God, I thank Him for everything. Purposefully, you live every day for Him, and when He gives you the opportunity to speak up for Him or to do something in His name, you do it."

Robert Griffin III is off to a great start with the Washington Redskins as their starting quarterback. In his first NFL game, Griffin led the Redskins to a 40–32 victory over the New Orleans Saints and was named the NFC's "Offensive Player of the Week"—the first time a rookie quarterback had ever received that honor for a debut game. But I'd say he's off to an even greater start in the game of life. I think he knows that bringing honor to God in whatever you do is a real privilege. You too can be the "player of the week" as a respected husband, dad, mom, friend, coworker, or neighbor. Each day we take in breath we can choose to honor or dishonor the One who gave us life.

Like RG3, when striving to be a disciple of Christ, we must remember three important things:

Serving Christ in the energy of the flesh alone will bring futility and frustration.

Whenever the Lord tells you to do something, do it.

Discipleship means following Christ without being irresponsible in our attitudes or behavior.


1. We all have "a stage to make a difference." It may not be the NFL stage like RG3, but it's our workplaces, communities, families, and churches. What can you do to make a difference for Christ on your stage?

2. Are there things keeping you from making a difference? List them out and then prayerfully ask God to help you remove those obstacles so that you can "just do" what needs to be done.



SUPER BOWL XLI WAS A TREAT FOR MILLIONS OF FOOTBALL FANS AROUND THE GLOBE. Not only because it pitted two great teams against each other in the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears, but also because it featured two great coaches, Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, who are deeply committed Christian men. In the years leading up to Super Bowl XLI, Smith had worked under Dungy during his years of coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Smith was the linebacker coach), and the two had become very close friends. After both left the Buccaneers, they remained friends and routinely communicated about their favorite subjects—the Lord and football.

Both men were proud to be the first African-American coaches to lead teams to the Super Bowl. But, at the end of the game, with the Colts being the victors, Tony Dungy said, "I'm proud to be the first African-American coach to win this. But again, more than anything, Lovie Smith and I are not only African-American but also Christian coaches, showing you can do it the Lord's way. We're more proud of that."

After reading about both of these men, watching the attitudes they each displayed on and off the field, and observed how they've consistently earned respect from the players, coaches, and everyone else who is able to work with them, it's evident to me that they live out their faith in God consistently—even when they lose.

Seeing people in prominent positions actively live out their faith in good times and bad times, prompts me to do some healthy self-evaluation of how I represent Christ in my day-to-day activities. Am I able to consider the confrontations that I encounter on life's journey as "win-win" situations? It may seem like a strange answer, but as followers of Christ, our answer should be a definite "Yes!"

When we actively seek a relationship with God through His Word, willingly accept the role He has for us in a given situation, pray fervently about it, and seek wise counsel regarding the situation, we can expect peace—even after a loss. Because, despite the worldly outcome, when we embrace the concept of a win-win confrontation, we can bring glory and honor to God through our actions and words.

The Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials. —2 PETER 2:9


1. Have you experienced a loss recently in your personal or professional life? Ask God to show you how your experience can be used to bring glory to Him.

2. Have you ever observed godly attitudes and actions from someone experiencing a loss? Consider letting that person know what an impact their actions made on you personally.



LONG BEFORE THE SUPERSTARS OF TODAY WERE EVEN BORN, many players and coaches paved the way for them to excel in one of America's favorite sports. From very obscure beginnings, on November 6, 1869, a half-century before there was an NFL, two teams—from Rutgers and Princeton—played what historians consider the first college football game.

The game resembled a soccer or rugby game more than what we now categorize as football. The rules ordered, for instance, "no throwing or running with the round ball, but it could be batted or dribbled." The game attracted a total of one hundred fans, most of whom probably came more out of curiosity than to support any one team or player.

The rival colleges battled to a Rutgers 6–4 victory. Points were scored one at a time by kicking the ball over the goal line, but not through uprights. More games were played, but frustration soon settled in because of the difficulty associated with the rules. Finally, in 1874, needed changes were made.

Records indicate that the first important American coach was Amos Alonzo Stagg. The excitement of football won Coach Stagg's heart and imagination—he had a true passion for the game and loved to encourage younger players. As a Yale divinity student, he began coaching part-time to help pay his tuition. He coached at Springfield College, Massachusetts, and then moved to the University of Chicago. At the age of seventy-one, he became the head coach for the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.

Some historians credit Stagg with developing the forward pass, the T-formation, the single and double flanker, the huddle, the shift, the man in motion, the quick kick, the short kickoff, and the short punt formation. He helped invent numerous elements of football gear, including uniform numbers, the tackling dummy, the blocking sled, and the padded goalpost.

Coach Stagg died in 1965 at the age of 102, having won 314 games. Only a few coaches would ever win more, including the legendary Paul (Bear) Bryant from the University of Alabama, Bobby Bowden of Florida State, and Eddie Robinson of Grambling. One of Stagg's disciples, Glenn (Pop) Warner, won 336 games by emphasizing the importance of concentrated practice.

In the 1920s, another progressive coach, John Heisman, for whom the trophy honoring the nation's outstanding college player is named, began marketing football in the same way baseball had been promoted. Coach Heisman expanded football throughout the nation, inspiring rule changes that placed a healthy balance between the offensive and defensive aspects of the game.

It was in the same era that the National Football League was formed to take highly skilled college athletes into the professional arena. Franchises began in cities like Chicago, Green Bay, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, and Buffalo. Most games were played on dirt fields without much padding or protection for the players. You had to be extra tough to play in this league—most men played both offense and defense, adding to the possibility of sustaining a serious injury.

Without championship games and with poor stadium seating, the unmatched teams of the NFL didn't draw many fans during the dark days of the Depression. Baseball was still king, and this newly developing sport seemed more of a nuisance than something of real spectator value. Even so, as NFL championship contests evolved and players' salaries increased, so did viewership. With more rule changes, better equipment and training programs, faster and more specialized athletes, and the advent of television, folks were able to see and support their favorite team.

With the impending merger of the American Football League (AFL) and the National Football League (NFL), a championship game was scheduled for the two titleholders in 1967 and was called the Supergame. This matchup grew to become the yearly super Sunday event known as the Super Bowl, which quickly became the most watched spectacle in television history. Today hundreds of millions of people around the world watch the two top contenders square off for the honor of being crowned Super Bowl champion.

Unlike the evolution of football, God's plan and purpose for humankind does not change. His love for us is constant and unchanging; His promises to us never waver. Our God is a God of order and reason, and the world He has created shows us that truth. He wishes to communicate deeply with us, His dear children, hoping that we will come to know Him and to make Him known.


1. Take time today and find a quiet place (ideally outdoors). Just listen and observe. Can you see the order and reason of His creation? Spend a few minutes in prayer thanking Him for the beauty He has made around you.

2. Look at James 1:17. How do the good and perfect gifts of God's creation help you see His unchanging nature and count on His promises?



MANY PEOPLE ATTRIBUTE THE PHRASE "ALL GLORY IS FLEETING" TO GENERAL GEORGE S. PATTON, BUT IT DIDN'T ORIGINATE WITH HIM. In Roman times, a conquering general was allowed a parade of "triumph" through the streets of Rome. But Caesar ordered that a slave stand next to the general in his chariot and continuously whisper in his ear, "All glory is fleeting."

In the realm of football, as it is played out in front of millions of fans in stadiums and on television screens throughout the living rooms of the world, it seems that "all glory is fleeting" is a phrase unknown by many NFL players. In the Christian community though, it's refreshing and encouraging to watch players come into the game who are willing to truly give the glory to God. One such player has become a primary focus of NFL fans.

One of the most decorated college football players over the last decade, Tim Tebow is now a steady force in the NFL. Much has been written about this young man and his fervent dedication to Jesus Christ. The legacy he left at the University of Florida is one that speaks of integrity and character. To this day, his words and actions, both on and off the field, are consistent. There is no doubt that Tebow lives out his faith well. Now, as he faces the challenges of the NFL, there is a great deal of anticipation as fans watch to see how he will live out his faith in such a bright spotlight.

Tebow's heroics with the Denver Broncos during the 2011 season made a definite impression upon football enthusiasts everywhere. Despite the fact the Broncos traded Tim to the Jets it doesn't take away from the spectacular outcomes associated with many of his performances.

"There is no ego with Tim," said Brian Dawkins, a former teammate and nine-time Pro Bowl free safety. "He wants to work, he wants to learn, asks a lot of questions—not just from the offensive side of the ball, but he's asking me questions; he's trying to learn as much as he can to make himself a better player. And that's always an encouraging sign: to see a young guy who's been a star to come in and be a humble player."

Josh McDaniels, former head coach of the Denver Broncos said this of Tebow:

[Tim's] confidence affects everybody. We could see it last week at rookie camp. There were a bunch of rookies out there with no confidence, except him. He's got such confidence that he will just not let himself fail. And that quality sometimes is very underrated. There are people with a great deal of God-given ability who are fun to watch, and it's really interesting to see what kind of seasons they'll put together. Then there are guys who will say they won't fail, our team's not going to fail, and they have an "I'm not going to let you down" attitude. And that's what you notice with Tim.

Already Tebow's character and strong work ethic are speaking volumes for him and for his Savior Jesus Christ. According to Tebow, "Football gives me a platform and with that platform comes a responsibility and obligation to make a difference in people's lives." God has truly blessed this young man with physical talent and a desire to use his abilities to glorify and honor Jesus Christ.

Are you using the talents and platform God has given you to boldly proclaim His love? Do you strive to live out a Christlike testimony in front of your coworkers, clients, and customers? I encourage you to dig into God's Word, meet regularly with other believers, and establish accountability with them that will spur you on to glorify the name of God. And remember, all glory is fleeting for us here on earth, but thankfully we are able to glorify and honor God while we're here as a witness of the grace and mercy He has extended to us.

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." —ROMANS 1:16–17

Excerpted from GUTS GRACE & GLORY by JIM GRASSI. Copyright © 2013 by Dr. James E. Grassi. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Dr. Jim
is an international men's ministry leader and has served in the capacity of chaplain with the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco Forty-Niners. He is an award-winning author, communicator, outdoorsman, chaplain, and former television co-host. His practical approach to life and gift of storytelling have been used to teach biblical truth while captivating audiences around the world.

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Guts, Grace, and Glory: A Football Devotional 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Doctor of what? Given by who?