I heard a recent radio program where they quoted New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady as having said, “I’m still learning the quarterback position.” That would be a laudable statement coming from a rookie or a player in their second or third year in the NFL, but to hear Tom Brady say it was remarkable. Brady, in case you have been living under a rock the last dozen years, has won three Super Bowls, is a two-time player of the year, is the Patriots’ all-time leader in touchdowns and passing yardage, and is a five-time AFC champion. Yet, he sees himself as still learning how to play what is arguably the most demanding position in professional sports. I would argue that it is this commitment to the pursuit of improvement that has enabled Brady and his Patriots to reach the lofty heights of success they have known since he stepped under center as the New England starter in 2001. Being driven to want to be better has been a strategic part of Tom Brady’s success in the NFL—success that will surely one day land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
This idea of appropriate dissatisfaction is very significant, but it is also challenging to manage. In Christ, we are called to be content, being told:
- Now godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6).
- Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).
- Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content (Phil. 4:11).
But that is something very different from the honest recognition that we should not be content with where we are in our spiritual growth. We should desire Christ to be formed in us so passionately that we are constantly seeking His work of growth, maturity, and spiritual progress to have full force on our hearts and lives. Certainly this was Paul’s aspiration. He wrote:
Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:13-14).
The very same apostle Paul who said he was content in every circumstance was not content to settle for less than the fullness of God’s desire for his spiritual development. This, I believe, is critical to the life that is moving to maturity in Christ—we must long for, seek, and allow His shaping work in us if, in fact, Christ is to be fully formed in us. The challenge before us is this: Will we actively seek His perfecting work in our hearts, or will we settle for a life in Christ that is less? This, too, is part of why Christ died and rose again—not only so that we might have life, but that we might be conformed to the image of our Lord (Rom. 8:29).
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain