“I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:14 NLT
I watched my first rugby match this morning. I follow a couple of rugby pages on Instagram and my newsfeed was blowing up with pics of this crazy game called “Origin”. I had no idea what “Origin” was or what the craze was all about. But I quickly learned. Actually, I still don’t know why they call it Origin but I learned what the craze of rugby was all about.
Prior to watching this game, my understanding of rugby consisted of it being a form of football where they wore no pads and dressed like soccer players. I knew the rules were a tad different but never studied it enough to fully understand the similarities or differences. Watching the match was a real eye opener that rugby is clearly in a league of its own.
Football and rugby both have an offense and defense. The offense moves the ball to the end zone/goal line, the defense does everything in their power to stop that from happening. Where American football has four downs (or four attempts to move the ball toward the end zone) Australian rugby offense can move the ball through 5 tackles before the ball is turned over to their opponent. But there’s a greater difference-In football, after each down, a new play is discuss and set up, a new strategy is planned before the ball is hiked and another attempt is made toward the end zone. What I watched in rugby, the team runs together in a horizontal line lobbing the ball to each other trying to bust past the defensive line. When they’re tackled, they get up, kick the ball slightly behind them to a team mate and the running/lobbing madness begins again.
Another difference is passing. There’s passing in rugby but it’s nothing like football. In American football, a quarterback can throw a spiral that’ll clear the defense to a receiver who can outrun the enemy. A quarterback with a strong throwing arm combined with a fast receiver makes for one tough high-scoring offense. I’m still trying to figure out how passing works in rugby, but I didn’t see any throws over the defense’s heads or someone running down field to catch and score.
Watching the offense move the ball to score a try (or touchdown) and the defense repeatedly tackle them was like watching a spiritual warfare battlefield. As Christians, we are the offense. Each day we are called to press on toward the goals we have in this life, accomplishing our God-given dreams. The enemy is the defense. He and his evil henchmen do everything in their power to tackle every move we make preventing us from reaching God’s goals for our life. If we’re tough like an Australian rugby player, we get right back up and keep moving only to again meet opposition and maybe get knocked down again. A vicious cycle until we wear out because let’s face it, the enemy doesn’t get tired.
As exhilarating and slightly confusing as rugby is to me (confusing only because I’m still learning it), there’s a few differences in American football I really like. First, there’s a quarterback who sets the stage, directs the plays and tends to determine how the ball is going to move down the field into the end zone. In life, we have a quarterback too. Psalm 37:23 reminds us that “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (NLT) God has already set the stage for us. If we listen, He directs the plays (our steps) and His word determines how we (the ball) navigate through this life achieving His goals.
Second, the offense’s response to a defensive tackle is to pause, reset, and set up a new strategy before moving the ball again. In life, when the enemy attacks us, there are times we should “cease striving and know that He is God….” (Psalm 46:10 NASB) There are times in life where the enemy has knocked us on our backsides so hard all we can do is pause, seek our Heavenly Quarterback for direction and allow Him to set up our next move. It may look like the same move we tried before, or He may have a different “play” for us. Whatever the plan, if we listen to His leading, we will victoriously find ourselves successfully in the end zone with the enemy licking his wounds in defeat.
One last thing-in American football there’s a term called “false start” where the offense crosses the line of scrimmage before the ball is in play. In life, we can experience false starts too if we try to move ourselves before the Lord tells us to move or better yet before He has even given us direction or set up the play. The books of Deuteronomy and Jeremiah along with many Proverbs warn us of what happens when we walk outside of God’s direction.
Whether you play Australian rugby or American football, the prize is ultimately a trophy and bragging rights. In life, the prize we press on to achieve is accomplishing God’s will for our lives, changing this world and giving Him all the glory. Doing anything that glorifies God is a prize worth fighting for no matter how many tackles the enemy makes on us. With God as our Quarterback, in the end, we will score the ultimately try/touchdown!!!