Winner: October Abraham House Devotional
by Carl Petersen
Everyone wants to be winner. As a strong and stout young man this was drilled into my head everyday at school and football practice. Winners succeed in life while losers languish in mediocrity. Marv Marinovich was a winner. He succeeded in everything he put his mind on to do. His love was football. Marv was a lineman and captain for the University of Southern California’s 1962 National Championship team. He later played for the Oakland Raiders in the AFL. As a winner, Marv was very serious about his strength and conditioning regiment. He trained religiously and he loved it. He loved it so much that he quit the Raiders to study conditioning full time. He later became one of the first strength and conditioning coaches in the NFL. Again he was a winner.
Marv was married and had two children. Marv used his son, Todd, as a guinea pig for all his conditioning techniques. No fast food or candy for Todd. If Todd did not live up to Marv’s expectations in football practice, he ran home. Marv spent all his time with Todd, not so much as a father, but as a coach. Everything was structured around training Todd to be a great QB. There was no excuse for imperfection and not living up to one’s potential and Todd had a very high potential. Todd excelled in high school football and became one of the first freshmen to start as QB for USC. However, Todd could not handle the unstructured life away from his dad. Drugs and on and off the field fighting with his coach destroyed what could have been a legendary college career. Todd did not make it far in the NFL with the
Oakland Raiders either. He tried the Canadian Football League but soon was out of football all together.
Todd could not handle the stress of being perfect. He could not handle having to perform in order to be accepted by his father. He had always had to be a winner in order to be someone. His performance was the mark of who he was as a person. Todd’s first love was really art (this is an example of one of his paintings). He played football and excelled at it primarily for his father.
This story reminds me of this month’s stories for the House of Abraham. Abraham had a promised child that he loved very much (Gen. 22:2). Isaac was the seed promised by God to fulfil God’s promise that He would make Abraham a great nation (Gen 12). God decided to test Abraham and commanded him saying “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” (Gen 22:2). That is an appalling command and it should make us uneasy. How could God ask Abraham to sacrifice his only son, the promised son? The story does not waiver as Abraham (almost matter of fact) goes to Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son as God had commanded. There are many speculations as to what Abraham was thinking during this time but it is clear that he did as God had commanded him. Right before Abraham was to plunge the knife into Isaac, God stopped him. God provided a ram to sacrifice instead. Abraham was not called to give up the one and only son that he loved.
Many years later another Father was in the same situation. His Son, Jesus Christ, was going to the cross to die for the sins of the world. However, although he loved his one and only Son very much, God the Father sent his Son to become man in order to die. Jesus Christ was the true sacrifice. God became flesh and paid our penalty for our sins and lived the perfect life we could never live. It is through our union with Christ that we are part of the family of God. “In love, The Father predestined us (the church, you and me) for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:5-6). We receive the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” and become co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:15-17). We are adopted as sons through the one and only Son and thus have His rights and privileges as a Son of the Father.
We do not have to live up to perfection in order to have our Father, God, say to us “Well done thy good and faithful servant.’ (Matt 25:21 & 23). Like Todd Marovinch who could not live up to his father’s expectations, we cannot live up to expectation of perfection and our potential as sons of God. Before and after salvation, we can only rest on the person and work of Jesus Christ who has lived the perfect life that we can’t and has paid for our sins and imperfections. Truly remarkable is God the Father’s love toward us that He chose to send his only Son, Jesus, to die in order for us to be sons in whom he delights. We do not have to live on the proverbial treadmill of performance-based spirituality. The Father is proud of us not because what works we have done or continue to do. Instead of asking what we do the Father sees whose we are. We are His sons through Christ. We can rest in His love. This love frees us for obedience not as slaves but as sons. We can obey not because we need to make God proud of us or so God will not shake his head in disgust at our pitiful rags but because he has killed the fatted calf and is delighting in us through Christ. What glorious love! What a tremendous thought! I cannot think of any better good news than that God loves me and that God loves you. It is how we can be free from trying to fill our emptiness with our own self-worth and performance-based self-esteem. We can now live in Christ and relish in the love His Father has for Him because through Him the Father has the same love for us. This is something we can teach our children when they come to us crying because others have destroyed their self esteem. We can all stand firm but not in ourselves and our performance track record. We can only be confident as co-heirs with Christ knowing that the Father loves us and there is nothing we can do to fall out of his love and favor. AMEN!