By Don Ruhl
Christians are more than conquerors, according to Romans 8, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (v. 37). Going back to verse 31, Paul stated all the wonderful things that Christians have and then asked two critical questions, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).
Paul taught that we were once lost in sin, but God saved us, made us righteous and given us His Spirit, so what can we say? Obviously, God is for us, so who could possibly be against us? Paul answers his own questions in Romans 8:32–36, showing that God is for us, because:
He gave us His Son
He freely gives us all things
He justifies us
Jesus makes intercession for us
Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ
Therefore, we are not just conquerors, but more than conquerors, as he says in verse 37. This is why nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:38, 39).
Romans 8 uses images of military opposition, because an enemy wants to conquer us. Sometimes the Bible puts our struggle into the imagery of sports, in which there is also opposition, such as in First Corinthians 9:24–27.
In 2001 Newsweek (June 18, 2001, pp. 42–49) had a story called, “The Dominator,” about Tiger Woods and other legends of sports. I have no interest in golf, but it is hard to listen to the news without finding something about this young man. The question was asked, “The world’s greatest golfer seems to get better and better. How does he do it?”
Some say that he is the best ever. Jack Nicklaus designed a course, according to the article, “in part so that Woods wouldn’t be able to run roughshod over the field in future years. Perhaps next time Jack should lace the fairway with booby traps and kryptonite. But who are we kidding? That wouldn’t work either.”
The article continued, “…Woods hit the shot of the year so far. He pulled out his 2-iron and launched the ball 249 yards, sticking it six feet from the cup.” Then the writer said for my benefit: “(For those of you who don’t know golf, let’s put it this way: that’s impossible.)” When the Newsweek article was written, the writer said, Woods “won 20 of the past 50 tournaments he’s entered, meaning he’s batting .400 in a sport where almost everyone else would give his right leg to bat .042.”
Three years younger than Michael Jordan when he won his first NBA title, Woods is emerging as the best of an elite crop of athletes: the dominators. Obviously, stars like Tiger are supremely gifted physically, but it goes well beyond that: dominators possess uncommon emotional control and unlimited reservoirs of passion. You want to know what it’s like to face someone like Tiger? Make a fist. Now punch yourself in the face. Because dominators don’t just beat you; they make you beat you. The real question is: how? What makes these athletes so much better than even the finest in their sport?
So they asked Wayne Gretzky, Martina Navratilova, Joe Montana and Michael Jordan what it takes to be the best of the best. They asked these other athletes about Woods also. They gave five rules.
These describe why Christians are More Than Conquerors, because the Holy Spirit teaches us “uncommon emotional control and unlimited reservoirs of passion.” We are like these dominators in that we do not just beat the opposition; we make them beat themselves. Have you read about Benaiah, a mighty man of David?
And he killed an Egyptian, a spectacular man [from First Chronicles 11:23 that means he was 7.5 feet tall, DR]. The Egyptian had a spear in his hand; so he went down to him with a staff, wrested the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and killed him with his own spear (2 Sam. 23:21).
We refute false teachers by using their arguments against them. Listen to yourself the next time. In Judges 7 when Gideon attacked the Midianites, verse 22 says “…the LORD set every man’s sword against his companion throughout the whole camp…” (Judges 7:22). The Lord will also help us by making our enemies defeat themselves. And that is just my point. These super-athletes have God-given talent and they have exploited that talent to the max. However, they are not doing it for the glory of God nor are they accomplishing these things by faith. We do live for the glory of God by faith. Therefore, we are not just Dominators, but More Than Dominators! God is for us, who can be against us?
Here are the five rules those athletes gave, but that you will see have spiritual applications.
All these athletes agreed that hard work is the key. There is no mystical potion. Martina Navratilova, winner of 167 singles titles, including a record nine Wimbledons, said: “Every great shot you hit, you’ve already hit a bunch of times in practice.”
The vast majority of athletes have a much lower tolerance for preparation. It’s not the pain. It’s simpler than that: practice can be boring. Says Joe Montana, who led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl wins in the 1980s: “A lot of guys say, ‘Yeah, I watched two hours of [game] film last night.’ But they’re not really studying what’s going on. They may as well have been watching television.” Tiger’s habit of pounding golf ball after golf ball long into the twilight—often during tournament play—has already become part of his legend…
…Wayne Gretzky, hockey’s leading scorer and four-time Stanley Cup winner [says] “The better your habits are, the better they’ll be in pressure situations.”
It was Thomas Edison who said: “Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.” These athletic dominators have discovered this key to success. “Genius, that power which dazzles mortal eyes, Is oft but perseverance in disguise” (Henry Willard Austin). Michelangelo echoed: “If people knew how hard I have to work to gain my mastery it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all.”
Hard work is necessary because God is not going to do it all. Nor it is by luck. It is not that it is easier for the successful either. A woman impressed with an older preacher’s recall of Scripture, said to him, “I would give half of my life to know Scripture as well as you do.” He said: “That is what I gave.”
Remember what Paul taught in Romans 8:36. You have read incredible feats in Scripture; all of them were accomplished because they did what Paul says here, “As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’”
The Book of Proverbs is filled with passages like these: “The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing; But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich” (13:4). “In all labor there is profit, But idle chatter leads only to poverty” (14:23).
Let the Opposition Get Nervous
Gretzky and Woods have one more critical trait in common: an almost creepy ability to keep their cool. “Believe it or not, the bigger the game, the calmer I seemed to get,” Gretzky says. The dominators then let the other guy’s butterflies become a weapon on their behalf. “I was comfortable because other people were nervous,” says Yankee great Reggie Jackson… “Sooner or later you’re going to rush or make a mistake. And I’m not going to do that.”
This helps explain why Woods, playing in a “gentlemanly” sport where rivals can’t directly affect each other’s play, has nonetheless become known for rattling his opponents. Being paired with Woods is akin to when the disciples tried to save their boat during a storm, only to be distracted by the sight of Jesus walking on water. “You’re not only aware of his superior skills, you’re also dealing with a whole new set of variables—a much bigger gallery, oohs and ahs after every one of his shots,” says…Deborah Graham, adviser to more than 200 PGA Tour golfers and coauthor of “The Eight Traits of Champion Golfers.” “It can be a big blow to anyone’s confidence.” Montana says he sees it written on golfers’ faces when he watches Woods on TV: “He gets on a roll, and everybody else starts looking at the board to see what Tiger’s doing. They’re watching TV, too, and they should be playing.”
This reminds me of Acts 17 when Paul and Silas entered Thessalonica, the Jews who were envious of the two started a riot against them, even before the preachers had done anything. Why? Their reputation preceded them, just like these dominating athletes.
But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6).
This is happening now. Americans are getting nervous about Bible-believers. Stanford University would not hire a head football coach because of his Christian beliefs Prayer is banned in schools. Colleges in California and West Virginia were kept from being accredited simply because of their creation teachings.
After a while, a true dominator can conjure the sense that the gods are aligned against you, that defeat is inevitable. Says Bengals cornerback David Fulcher, who watched Montana storm by his team’s bruising defense and into the end zone: “Eventually you’re just thinking, ‘OK, when are they gonna score?’ You don’t talk about it, but it’s in everybody’s head.” After a few successes, a mystique can emerge around an athlete who’s capable of doing half the work for him. Now on the PGA Tour guys reflexively say that they must play mistake-free golf in order to beat Tiger. Why? Tiger doesn’t play mistake-free golf. That’s a myth. And yet his rivals have convinced themselves that they must be perfect. What happens, then, when they inevitably make a mistake? Is it any wonder they unravel?
First Samuel 16 shows a visit that Samuel made to Bethlehem. He meant no harm, but he was a man of God, who did God’s bidding and that intimidated people.
So Samuel did what the LORD said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” (1 Sam. 16:4).
Second Kings 9 shows Jehu was doing the Lord’s work. Two evil kings fled before this man.
Now it happened, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” So he answered, “What peace, as long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcraft are so many?” Then Joram turned around and fled, and said to Ahaziah, “Treachery, Ahaziah!” (2 Ki. 9:22, 23).
Truth speakers intimidate false teachers. For example, in the early 1980s Carl Sagan issued a challenge to creationists to debate publicly creation/evolution. Brother Thomas B. Warren, who had debated and defeated several world-class athiests and evolutions, took up the challenge. Carl Sagan refused to debate him. When Walter Martin, author of Kingdom of the Cults, on the radio offered a challenge to Churches of Christ to debate baptism, the North Long Beach Church of Christ in Long Beach, California took up the challenge. Brother Wayne Jackson was offered as our speaker. Mr. Martin knew Jackson and refused to debate.
See Your Place in History
How else to explain why Joe Montana—and not Dan Marino, who surpassed him in every statistical category but never won a Super Bowl—is the NFL’s iconic quarterback? History is merciless, Dan…Just ask Pedro Martinez, a dominator-in-waiting who happens to pitch for the Boston Red Sox, a team that hasn’t won a World Series since (sing along, Yankee fans) 1918. “I’m not like those guys. Not yet,” says the three-time Cy Young Award winner. “I want to go the places they’ve been and test myself.” And if you never get a ring?… [His response was something that cannot be repeated.]
The Books of Daniel and Revelation show that history and the future are for God’s people.
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!” (Rev. 11:15).
But the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed up the flood which the dragon had spewed out of his mouth (Rev. 12:16).
Do not think that we are insignificant, that we have no impact on why things happen, that we are only along for the ride. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world!
Never Be Satisfied
Most athletes work the hardest when they’re trying to reach the top, but Tiger has seemed only more committed to improving his game since leaving the competition in the dust. Woods won his first Masters—by the largest margin in history—in 1997, but he knew that he wouldn’t reach Jack Nicklaus’s mark of six green jackets without a jolt to his game. So he spent the next 18 months retooling his thunderous, but often wild, swing. “His goals are different than mine,” says golfer Chris DiMarco, who led the 2001 Masters for two rounds before yielding to Tiger. “I’ve got kids. I’ve got other things weighing on my mind. I’m just trying to make a living for my family. I’m not concerned about winning every tournament.”
Fair enough, but that, in a nutshell, is why DiMarco will never beat Tiger Woods. “When I watch golf and hear other players interviewed, most of them sound like they can’t believe they won,” Gretzky says. “Then you hear from Tiger, and he either expected to win or he can’t believe he didn’t. It’s a different mind-set altogether.” For a dominator, losing is like slow asphyxiation. It’s unimaginable…Observers say the only thing that can stop Tiger from winning 5, 10 or 20 more majors is complacency. Obviously those folks don’t know much about dominators. For warriors like Woods, the heart stops first, then the hunger…
The New Testament teaches that we should never be satisfied. In Romans 15:13 Paul wished that the disciples “may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” The apostle exhorted the believers in Corinth that as they abounded in everything, “see that you abound in this grace also,” that is, in giving (2 Cor. 8:7). For the Philippians Paul prayed, “that your love may abound still more and more.” (Phil. 1:9). To the Thessalonians he wrote, “may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all” (1 Thess. 3:12). He continued in the same letter, saying, “Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God…” (4:1, also v. 10). Peter promised that if the Christian Graces of Second Peter 1:5–7 “are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 8).
Every Christian in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s who is admired for his or her Christianity, keeps growing. They never stop meditating on the Scriptures. They keep praying. They may not be able to do all the works they once did, but they continue to do what they can.
If you are a faithful child of God, you are not just a conqueror, but more than a conqueror. Super athletes give these five qualities for mere games, but Christianity is not a game, it is eternal life! Therefore, give your all!
Don Ruhl is a preacher with the Savage Street Church of Christ, 220 NE Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon 97526-1310, 541-476-3100, Rdruhl@aol.com