This story appears in FCA Magazine’s May/June 2018 issue.
Throughout my coaching career, I’ve always admired and tried to learn from a coach who passed away many years ago.
After I became a Christian, I began to examine the life of Coach D very carefully. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was being introduced to the idea of integrity through this coach. He’s probably one of the greatest coaches of all time, but I’m not sure many know of him anymore.
To fully understand the word “integrity,” which is used quite often, I like to dive into its root word, “integer,” a word you might not have thought about much since high school math class. An integer is a whole number, not a fraction. A fraction is divided; a whole number is complete, undivided, consistent. A fraction is part of something. It doesn’t reveal the whole picture; there’s something missing that is vital for completion or maturity.
In non-mathematical terms, I associate fractions with the word “compromise,” a mutual agreement where the bar is lowered somewhere closer to the middle. As they ask at Starbucks, “Do you want to leave room at the top for cream?”
Coach D was very gifted, but when it came to following the Lord, he left no room at the top for cream! He did not negotiate with sin, nor did he come to a mutual compromise with the devil as to how fervently he would follow the Lord. Integrity was non-negotiable for Coach D. What a winning quality!
We have freedom to express our faith; we just have to be aware that we might get in trouble for it!
The Lord blessed Coach D favorably. He continued growing in integrity through strong convictions to studying the Word and his prayer life. His intimacy with the Lord fueled the integrity of his faith. And, finally, he was offered a prestigious head coaching job.
However, around the same time, the nation began to forbid public Bible reading and prayer. Coach D faced a dilemma, because his private worship of the Lord overflowed publicly. He believed that integrity meant as you believe, so you think, so you speak, so you do. Many fellow believers around Coach D at the time urged him to just comply with the new rules. They didn’t want to risk losing him as head coach. After all, they reasoned, he could still worship and pray in silence without anyone noticing and not have to commit “professional suicide.”
But Coach D thought staying silent about God just because the world told him to tone it down would be a lack of integrity. Let me ask you: What would you have told Coach D?
Who exactly is this Coach D? It’s Daniel, from the Bible.
When I was reading through Daniel’s story as a younger Christian, I was astonished at his predicament, and then amazed at his decision, which you can read in Daniel 6.
These days, too often it seems many of us are advising fellow Christians who are climbing up in status to play it safe. When the world says “back off,” we, as Christians, automatically just do what they say. Daniel dealt with similar appeals, but he saw his situation as an integrity issue because his intimacy with God would have been compromised. In my life, too many times to count, I know I’ve broken integrity with Jesus. But through the painful repentance process I have learned a couple things.
First, I’ve learned my broken integrity always accompanied my fractured intimacy with Jesus. Second, it was my sinful choice. No one other than me could make me lose my integrity in a situation.
What would you tell a Christian coach who’s just landed a “dream job” but was also told to not pray or share Scripture with their team? How would you advise an FCA Huddle that meets at the local school and is told certain thoughts and beliefs must not be called “sinful” or even addressed? What would you say to a ministry that was told it couldn’t present the gospel?
Well, here’s the lesson Daniel gives us in Daniel 6:10: “But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual, in his upstairs room, with its window toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.”
We have the freedom to express our faith; we just have to be aware that we might get in trouble for it! The lions didn’t like the integrity-driven choices of an Old Testament coach named Daniel, who simply let God be God with the rewards and/or consequences of that integrity. Through his intimacy with God flowed tremendous integrity, and intimidation could not conquer it.
What would you tell the many Christian coaches, athletes, leaders, pastors, parents and kids facing similar challenges today?