I asked Leigh O’Dell, a shareholder in the firm, to write the Parting Words Section for this month’s issue. Leigh’s message is both timely and badly needed. I believe it is most appropriate for all of our readers, regardless of where they might be, and especially for lawyers.
In the hectic world of the 21st century, busyness is epidemic. Urgent demands often overtake those things in life that are most important. Modern media make us perpetually distracted. The noise of the world drowns out the still small voice of God. In light of these very present realities, how can we maintain a sense of peace and priority?
In his three years of eternity-changing ministry, Jesus never seemed overwhelmed, distracted or, to use a modern phrase, “crazy busy.” Yet, the Son of God, who was also the Son of Man, maintained the most productive, effective, fruitful schedule in the history of the world. The Gospels are replete with examples of His calm in the midst of chaos, His kingdom perspective in the midst of persecution, His loving patience in the midst of perpetual demands. How did Jesus do it?
Jesus models for us what our priorities should be if we are going to live a life characterized by peace and proper perspective. Doing His Father’s will and glorifying His Father was Jesus’ first priority. (John 5:30). Jesus was not focused on what was popular among those who surrounded Him or trying to meet the expectations of the world. His sole focus was fulfilling His Father’s will.
Second, Jesus didn’t rush headlong into each new day. He rose early to pray, to commune with His Father in heaven, and to seek direction for the day. (Mark 1:35). He was able to walk in obedience to the Father because He had sought and knew the Father’s will. And, He maintained this perspective throughout the day. Jesus attended to the Lord without distraction.
Third people mattered more to Jesus than his schedule or “to do” list. From the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) to the countless people He healed or to the multitudes when He was teaching, Jesus poured out His life in love and service to people.
Examining the pattern that Jesus provides can be a bit overwhelming. Because after all He was the Son of God, the Messiah! But God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can and will equip and empower us to live out His priorities. (2 Cor. 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”)
In today’s work athletes are role models and that’s true regardless of what some may say. The priorities set in their lives are looked at by folks young and old, and have a definite influence. In my opinion, we need more positive role models. Coach Tom Landry, legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys, was a man who learned the lessons in life and achieved exceptional accomplishments while maintaining his priorities. Coach Landry remains one of the most successful NFL coaches ever. As the coach of the Dallas Cowboys (America’s Team), his teams had 20 consecutive winning seasons, 13 division championships, five trips to the Super Bowl and two world championship titles. If that was the real lesson to learn for Coach Landry’s life, we would be missing the “main thing.”
Serving as head coach of a NFL team was a demanding job, but Coach Landry made a commitment early in his career to make his Christian faith the highest priority in his life. He is quoted as saying, “This is really the most important factor in my life, my faith in Jesus Christ.” Landry continued, “When you accept Christ, He becomes first in your life. It’s this priority that gives me peace.” This was not always the case, however.
Prior to committing his life to Christ in 1958, winning football games was Coach Landry’s highest priority and he said it led him to feel “restless and dissatisfied.” During a Bible study in the off-season, he decided to transform his nominal church-going Christianity where God got lost in the shuffle to a faith where Christ was his number one priority in life. An interesting example of one way Coach Landry put God first was that on Sunday mornings (game day in the NFL and arguably the biggest day of the week for a NFL coach), Coach Landry didn’t change his priorities. When the Cowboys played at home, the coach attended church and taught Sunday School. Many times he walked into the stadium just a few minutes before the opening kickoff. Putting everything in perspective, that’s amazing!
Coach Landry also spent time in God’s Word and in prayer on a daily basis. In light of the demands on his time, it’s likely he didn’t have time, but he made time. That’s because spending time in God’s Word was included in his top priority. According to an interview with Mike McManus, time in God’s Word not only grew Coach Landry’s faith in Jesus, but it also gave him fresh insights on his family and other people, as well as on winning and losing football games.
Coach Landry also made people around him his priority. He cared about others – his family and his players. While he created an atmosphere with his players that was tough and disciplined, he also let them know that he cared about them. Coach Landry encouraged his players in their spiritual lives. As NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach shared at Coach Landry’s funeral:
He was our rock, our hope, our inspiration. He was our coach. Probably there were some players that didn’t love him, but all respected him. He was committed to us and you don’t find that type of commitment in life very often.
Tom Landry, Jr. also spoke at his father’s funeral. The packed congregation was filled with Pro Football Hall of Famers and Super Bowl champions. This is what the son had to say about his father that day:
Tom Landry was everything the world believed him to be. He was a man of virtue, of high moral character, a man whose talents and hard work propelled him to the top of his profession. Tom Landry never strayed from his ideals. He remains a consistent shining example to all of us.
Coach Landry, in the face of a demanding schedule, significant responsibilities, and the pressure to win, maintained his priorities – doing God’s will was first, spending time with God to grow in his faith was second, and loving people, making people a priority, was third. Because he followed the example of Jesus and lived out these principles throughout his life, his life was characterized by not only accomplishment and excellence, but also by the peace of Christ, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, the joy and rest that comes from walking in obedience to the Lord. Isn’t that what we all want?
Leigh has made a strong case for the importance of setting priorities in our lives. If you, like me, find yourself in an epic battle against busyness and other things that cause us to stray from our priorities, the pattern of Jesus Christ is readily available to us. We can also be inspired by the example of a man like Coach Landry and commit ourselves to making God’s priorities our own. That means pleasing God first and foremost, making time to read God’s Word and pray daily, and loving and serving others. As we do, our schedules and the demands on our life may not change externally, but we can trust that the peace of God will reign in our hearts and minds just as it did in Christ Jesus. I am still working to keep my focus on Jesus and maintain the priorities in my life in the proper order.
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