The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge by Tony Dungy and Nathan Whitaker by Tony Dungy and Nathan Whitaker - Read Online



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Strengthen the core of your life and faith on a year-long journey with beloved Super Bowl–winning former head coach Tony Dungy and co-author Nathan Whitaker! This deluxe LeatherLike edition of the New York Times best-selling The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge contains 365 reflections from Tony and Nathan on living an “uncommon life” of integrity, honoring your family and friends, creating a life of real significance and impact, and walking with the Lord. This year, step up to the challenge to spend time with God—and dare to be uncommon every day. A perfect gift for sports fans, coaches, athletes, and dads!
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ISBN: 9781414365794
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The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge

Copyright © 2011 by Tony Dungy. All rights reserved.

Cover photograph by Stephen Vosloo. Copyright © by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

Designed by Ron Kaufmann

Edited by Bonne L. Steffen

Published in association with the literary agency of Legacy, LLC, Winter Park, Florida 32789.

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Scripture quotations marked KJV are taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version.

Scripture quotations marked NASB are taken from the New American Standard Bible,® copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked NIV are taken from the Holy Bible, New International VersionNIV.® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version.® Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NKJV is a trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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Table of Contents

How to Use This Book













Scripture Index


How to Use This Book

We hope you will enjoy reading The One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge devotional as much as we enjoyed writing it.

For the last fourteen years, Tony has been in a Bible study with a number of other coaches. Reading The One Year Bible each year, they have not only engaged in a study of God’s Word, but have engaged in the building of a community. As coaches from their original group in Tampa Bay have changed teams or left the National Football League altogether during that time span, Tony has found that the One Year format keeps them connected as a community.

On any given day, they all know what the others are reading. Essentially, everyone is on the same page. This knowledge sparks e-mails or voice mails or direct conversations—What did you think about those verses from Ezekiel? I needed to hear that today. It really spoke to me because . . .

With this One Year Uncommon Life Daily Challenge, our hope is that the format will create the same sense of community for you, which is why we have indicated dates for the readings, but have not tied them to any particular year. Wherever you are in life, jump right in with today’s reading. And check out and for more resources.

The book focuses on seven themes, with each theme repeating every seven days. Therefore, every week you will read one devotion from each of the themes:

> Core

> Family

> Friends

> Potential

> Mission

> Influence

> Faith

January 1 starts with Core. Every seventh day that follows (January 8, 15, 22, 29, and so on) will be an insight on Core. Each devotion stands on its own, so that no matter what date you begin, whether it’s January 1 or August 27, you can jump right in. No matter what year you begin, you will always be in community with others who are reading the devotional.

Each devotion includes Scripture and an Uncommon Key—an application or action to implement based on what you’ve just read. This isn’t just a read-it-and-you’re-done type of devotional. The goal is to not only engage your mind, but to also challenge your heart. That, too, is worth sharing with the community that you may form with others.

If you miss a day, keep going. Don’t try to catch up, and don’t feel guilty. Yesterday is gone—spend time with God today. Our prayer is that every day you will be blessed by what you read and challenged to do more for God’s Kingdom.

Tony Dungy

Nathan Whitaker


1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10

11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  20

21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30



January 1

A Personal Training Plan

I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27

Self-control. Discipline. Getting in shape. A new commitment to stick to the plan.

How many times have you written down these goals or thought about them just before January 1? In a CNN report last year on New Year’s resolutions, it wasn’t surprising to learn that losing weight is the most common goal people set. In fact, I would guess that year after year that rarely changes—it will always be up there. It’s what fitness centers across the country gear up for: an influx of new customers and increased revenue in January more than any other time of the year.

And then we come to our senses—around February.

When I was a player, we’d see that occasionally when training camp rolled around. Professional football wasn’t a year-round enterprise then, and guys had jobs in the off-season. Some would show up totally out of shape when camp began.

As followers of Christ, we should maintain self-control and discipline, especially when it comes to taking care of our bodies. Getting in shape and making a commitment to stay that way honors God. He has given us our bodies through the miracle of creation. Taking care of them, watching what we put into them, and being careful about how we use them each day are responsibilities we shouldn’t take lightly.

But that mind-set is not only important for our physical bodies. That desire and discipline also applies to the training we do and the commitment we make to ourselves and to God. We commit to learn more about Him and about how we can be better disciples. It’s not a passive endeavor. It takes resolve and repetition, consistently working at it for maximum results. And results will happen as we grow closer to Him. Real success in achieving goals—whether they were set on January 1 or not—comes when we know we can’t do it by ourselves and look to the Lord for strength.

Where do you need improvement? More physical training for your body, taking care of the temple He gave you? Or getting to know Him better, spending time in His Word and with Him in prayer?

I’d recommend both on a regular basis. And ask God to be your trainer, to be there when you need to be pushed a little harder. He will give you the strength to help make your resolutions realities.

Uncommon Key > Moving from desire to actually doing better is only achieved with self-discipline, and self-discipline only works effectively when you trust in Him to help. Amp up your self-discipline in the areas you need it most.


January 2

The Importance of a Look Squad

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. Revelation 21:1-2

In practice each week, our team would run our plays against a look squad. That’s what we call our backup players who simulate the other team’s techniques as closely as possible. The simulation helps the first team’s players visualize how our plays will work against the other team’s. When we run a play and see it executed successfully in practice, we have the confidence to run it successfully during the game.

Visualization increases chances of success—not just in football but in any area of life. If we can’t see ourselves succeeding as workers, leaders, parents, or spouses, for example, we won’t have any confidence in those roles and be able to perform them well. But if we can see ourselves fulfilling our responsibilities effectively, achieving our goals, and relating to others healthily, we are much more likely to have the vision and the confidence to do those things. We tend to be able to accomplish what we can see.

God gives us a lot of pictures in the Bible—visions of who we are becoming and what His Kingdom is like. Today’s passage from Revelation is encouraging because it shows us our future with Him forever, as members of His family. If we can see our tomorrow and know how good it is, we can live in confidence today. We have courage to face anything when we know this is what awaits us on the other side of it.

Think of life as practice and the visions and instructions of Scripture as a look squad. Those words aren’t the full picture, because words can only tell us so much. The reality of the actual game will look a little different. But like the look squad during a week of practice, Scripture’s descriptions of the future give us and our families an idea of where we’re headed and what it will be like when we get there. We can know that God is standing there waiting for us with outstretched arms. And if we can see that future, we will have a much better idea of how to prepare for it, much more confidence as we move forward, and much more courage to handle anything today.

Uncommon Key > When you read God’s Word on a regular basis, you’ll discover what your future holds. Claim His promises and pay attention to His instructions. Seeing God in your tomorrow is the key to having confidence and courage today.


January 3

The Best Role Model Who Ever Lived

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. Philippians 3:12

We have a perfect role model.

Christ is our example on how to treat other people.

Christ is our example on the influence we can and should have on those around us.

Christ is the classic and eternal example of the role model we are called to be.

No other role model even comes close to Him. A tour through Scripture reveals a Christ who was always finding people where they were and taking them where they needed to be. He was always seeking people who thought they were nobodies and making them into somebodies.

In the verse above, Paul makes it clear that the goal we pursue—here on earth and in the hereafter—is Jesus Himself. He is the example we are to follow, the person we were meant to be like. We won’t reach perfection until we see Him face-to-face, but we are called always to be moving in that direction. In His strength, we press on toward that goal one day at a time. He can make us who we need to be if we focus on Him and allow Him to work through us. The same Christ who went around making somebodies out of nobodies is still at work in our lives.

God has a purpose in shaping us to be like Jesus. We become His influence—His hands and heart—for everyone around us. Wherever we find ourselves, we can influence people for His glory. That begins at home in our families, but it extends to every other area: our friends, coworkers, neighbors, fellow church members, fellow students, teammates—everyone we come in contact with. God doesn’t just glorify Himself by sending Jesus into this world. If we will let Him, He glorifies Himself by sending Jesus into this world through us.

Uncommon Key > Today and every day, remember that you are a personal representative of Jesus Christ. Always strive for the perfection of Christ—for yourself and for those around you.


January 4

Reaching Incremental Goals

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain. And God granted his request. 1 Chronicles 4:10, NIV

Few of us want to remain where we are without any improvement or increase. God has wired us to want to grow. But what kind of growth are we looking for? We have to be careful to focus on what’s really important and within our control, rather than external results we can’t really control.

My goals are usually qualitative, not quantitative. When I coached, my aim each season was not to win a certain number of games, but to have a team that played as well as it could and that was an asset to its community. I measured the team by whether it played up to its potential. And from year to year, I measured it by whether it improved.

That’s also how I measure myself. When I was a young assistant, I wanted to learn enough to one day be considered for a coordinator position. Then as a coordinator, I wanted to learn and improve so I could become a head coach. Sometimes our goals are a steady step-by-step progression, and sometimes they require risk. Whenever we ask God to enlarge our territories, we need faith to move to the next level. That always comes with the possibility of failure, although we can trust Him to be with us either to help us get there or to catch us when we fall. Over time, those steps of faith pay off. We grow and improve and reach higher goals.

Remember to focus on goals that are within your control. As a coach, I worked on learning more and improving my coaching abilities in order to be qualified for positions with greater responsibility. I couldn’t control whether I would be hired for those positions. When you do your part to prepare, you can trust God for the results. In His timing, He’s the one who enlarges your territory. Your job is to make yourself ready for it.

Uncommon Key > A little improvement each day makes a big difference over time. Ask God to enlarge your territory, but prepare yourself along the way to handle it well.


January 5

First Things First

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33

When people ask me to sign something, lately I’ve begun using this verse. Its truth is such a helpful way for me to structure the focus of my days.

How do you begin to set the right priorities for your life against the pull of the things the world says are important? It’s not easy, but it’s absolutely essential if you want to make sure you don’t miss the things that matter most.

With today’s verse, the natural tendency is to read the first part quickly in order to get to that last phrase: and he will give you everything you need. I know; I’ve been there. And if we’re honest about it, we would probably admit that we’re usually inclined to live each day primarily focusing on everything [we] need. It’s the stuff that slams us smack in the face when we wake up each morning and becomes more and more pressing throughout the day. The pressing needs around us—even if they are good things—can take the focus away from what matters most: our relationship with God and the people He has placed in our lives.

But read the verse again: Seek the Kingdom of God above all else (another Bible translation says, Seek first His Kingdom). How can you do that? With all the challenges, obstacles, and urgent matters of each day, is it even possible?

Let me suggest that you keep doing what you are doing right now—taking a few moments to be quiet and spend time with God. When you do, you will be pleasantly surprised at how He will lessen your worries about tomorrow and release you from the breathless pace of the world’s urgent priorities for today in order to make room for His priorities.

Dedicating time to the priorities that God has entrusted to you may not seem significant right now, but to someone who needs you, it could make all the difference in his or her life—and in yours.

Uncommon Key > Determine to seek God’s priorities for your life. It begins by spending time with Him. Try to do it every day—for yourself and for those who matter most to you.


January 6

Uniquely You

I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Have you thought about all the events that led up to this moment in your life—why you’re here, how you’ve been shaped, what caused you to read this book or seek God’s plans for your life? Have you wondered how much of it is accidental or random and how much is designed?

I believe God knew exactly where you would be right now and exactly what you would be like. He knew about your passions and gifts and the platform you have. In fact, I believe He was very purposeful in designing your life. He made you to be uniquely significant and to have an eternal impact on the world around you.

Let that sink in. How would you live differently if you really believed that God had intentionally designed you to impact others? What steps of faith would you take if you knew He had already planned them? What would you attempt if you were fully convinced He was backing you? Would you set out to accomplish big things in your community? Would you go into the local schools with a sense of mission? What impossible problems would suddenly seem possible to deal with? The fact is that when you believe you were designed for a purpose, you will live with purpose.

I realize we all have some areas we can improve, and just because we believe God designed us doesn’t mean we know what for. But God is gracious. He knows we’ll fall short, and He knows that finding His will for our lives will be a process. We’ll make mistakes along the way. Grace isn’t an excuse to give less than our best, but it is reassuring to know that God doesn’t pressure us to be perfect. When we fall, we can get up, dust ourselves off, and keep moving toward the goal. Whatever our past, God has future plans for us. And those plans are good.

Don’t be afraid to try big things that fit with God’s purposes. No problem is too big for Him to solve, whether it’s in the lives of people around us, on a national or global scale, or anything in between. That means no problem is too big for us to attempt to solve in His strength. We were designed for such purposes.

Uncommon Key > God was very intentional about your design, your opportunities, and your purpose. Thank Him and look for ways to use what He has given you in the best way possible.


January 7

A Gift You Don’t Want to Return

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Matthew 5:3

We would always ask the players to come in on Monday, then give them Tuesday off. As strange as it may sound, many times a player suffered an injury in the game and didn’t know it until he did a little activity the next day. He’d think that he was okay, but he really wasn’t. The day-after workout revealed the need for treatment.

The Bible says God blesses those who realize their need for Him. That seems like an easy way to be blessed, but a lot of people can’t bring themselves to realize they need anyone, even God. Still, that doesn’t keep Him from pursuing them. He wants all of us to spend eternity in heaven with Him.

Step one is to realize we need Him. Jesus made that clear. Not a single one of us is perfect, and because we have fallen short of God’s standard for our lives—in other words, we have sinned—we are separated from Him. He is holy and perfect, and our sin puts a gap between us and Him. Without being holy, we can’t be in a right relationship with Him or even come close to experiencing His presence—unless He makes a way.

God has provided that way in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us and take the punishment for our sinful nature so that we could have a direct relationship with Christ and God. All we have to do is desire to be in a relationship with God, understand that we can’t do it ourselves, and believe that God sent His Son for us.

That’s a gift from God. It cost Him a lot, but to us it’s absolutely free. Have you ever accepted that free gift?

When we truly believe in the free gift of Jesus in our hearts; acknowledge that we need that gift; accept Him as the Savior who died in our place for the consequences of our sin; and embrace Him as our Lord, making Him the number one priority in our lives, then we are absolutely assured of spending eternity with Him in heaven (John 3:16-17). Nothing we can do has greater power to change our lives than making this one decision.

Uncommon Key > God’s gift is anything but common, and it’s by far the most important key for living an uncommon life. The implications are huge. What is your relationship with Jesus Christ?


January 8

Living Wisely

In the same way, encourage the young men to live wisely. Titus 2:6

What does it mean to live wisely? Other Bible versions translate the Greek phrase as be self-controlled. It seems that we have lost that concept today, especially for our young people—the idea of embracing and knowing what it means to be self-controlled. As far as I am concerned, that’s really one of the keys to life, to discipline ourselves to do what we need to do so that at a later time we can do what we want to do.

That belief was one of the reasons my coauthor Nathan and I wrote the book Uncommon to reach young men. Of course, we also wanted to reach others with what we felt were keys to living an uncommon life, since God’s truths are timeless and not gender specific. However, as a coach, I have seen so many young men over the years who were searching for direction. Many of them came from homes with no fathers and no strong male role models to show them God’s design for their lives. It was our desire to reach out to them with a blueprint for living a life of significance.

Self-control. It’s just one of those keys that young men—actually, all of us—need to learn in order to live the lives they were intended to live and to become the men God created them to be. Whether you are a man or a woman, maintaining a core of self-control will set you on a path toward developing other basic qualities that are keys to living an uncommon and significant life, keys that focus on character, honesty, and integrity; the priorities of family and friends; embracing your full potential and mission; and living a life of faith and influence. All designed with the intention of helping you to grow in the wisdom of God’s plan for your life and to live out His purpose fully.

How is your self-control? Strong in some areas, weak in others? Strive to strengthen the weak areas and remain disciplined in the strong areas.

Uncommon Key > Reading this devotional every day is a matter of discipline and self-control—keep it up! You are finding a key to heightening your impact for God’s Kingdom.


January 9

Nothing Means Nothing

I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. . . . Indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

These verses from the apostle Paul are one of the greatest passages of hope, assurance, and comfort you will find anywhere in Scripture. For me, this passage has also been one of the ever-present reminders and renewal for the courage I have needed through the years and will continue to need to face the challenges and get past the obstacles of each day.

I’d venture a guess that you find reassurance in these verses too. Times get tough, things look bleak, the clouds roll in, and the sunshine rolls out. And yet there is nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ.

One of the things that caused me some reservations when deciding whether to write Quiet Strength was that I wasn’t sure anything that I had done was worthy of mention. What parts of my life would interest readers? But then when Nathan and I began the process of writing the book, I realized that it wasn’t just the joys that might be interesting for them to read about, but also some of the disappointments and heartaches and how I tried to walk on. What I went through might be a blessing and a comfort for others who have experienced similar trials.

In fact, we opened the book detailing a terrifically low point in my life—being fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It was a simple decision to start there—we knew that every reader could relate to a time when personal dreams have been dashed.

The one thing I knew to be true, but was reminded of through this process, was that I was never separated from God and God’s love revealed through what His Son Jesus Christ did for me—and for you—on the cross. As Nathan and I recalled moment after moment of the events of my life and my family’s, I could see even more clearly that God had been with me every moment and beside me every step of the journey, along with my wife and family.

What about you? Do you feel separated from God today because of your fears for today or your worries about tomorrow? The apostle Paul says, Don’t be! The God who loves us will take care of those things. Whether you’re aware of it or not.

Uncommon Key > Write down what you think could separate God’s love from you or your family members. Now draw a cross covering everything you listed. It is an eternal promise of hope for today and forever—nothing will ever separate any of us from the love of God revealed in His Son Jesus Christ.


January 10

A Genuine Interest

After David had finished talking with Saul, he met Jonathan, the king’s son. There was an immediate bond between them, for Jonathan loved David. 1 Samuel 18:1

Our son Jamie really exemplified a statement my parents always made: choose your friends for the sake of friendship. That seems obvious, but a lot of people choose friends because they are popular, good-looking, rich, or part of the right crowd. But Jamie was never concerned with someone’s status. He was drawn to people who looked like they needed a friend. Sometimes it seemed like the less status someone had, the more likely Jamie was to hang out with them. He chose his friends for no other reason than that he enjoyed being around them.

Friendship is meant to have mutual benefits for both people, but we often evaluate others by how they might benefit us. We may criticize society for valuing star athletes more than nurses and teachers, but we often reflect the same distorted values in our personal relationships. We determine people’s worth based on what they can do for us, how well-connected they are, or what their job is. We think more often about the benefits we might receive than the benefits we might be able to give. Rarely do people develop friendships based on the opportunities they give to pour into someone else’s life.

Friendship runs two ways. Dale Carnegie said you can make more friends in two weeks by genuinely showing interest in them than you can make in two years by trying to get them interested in you. And he was right. If you choose your friends simply for the sake of friendship—two-way, mutual benefit—you’ll not only have more of them, but the ones you have will mean more to you.

Uncommon Key > Choose your friends based on the fact that you enjoy being around them. Instead of thinking how they might benefit you, think about how you might benefit them.


January 11

A Couple of Minutes a Day

Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, Everyone is looking for you. Mark 1:35-37

Do you have moments in your life when you feel like everyone is demanding a piece of you, looking for you everywhere, armed with all their urgent requests and deadlines? So you try to find a place where they don’t know to look. Or maybe you just turn off your phone for a few minutes of peace and quiet.

The Gospels mention some similar moments for Jesus (albeit I’m pretty sure without the phone). Times when He realized it was time for Him to get away to be by Himself. Times when He no doubt spent time talking with His Father about what He was going through. Times to put His feet up—a good thing for a lot of reasons—and think.

Maybe sometimes He went off to take a nap. With the amount of walking He was doing, He had to have bouts of fatigue. Perhaps while He rested, He thought about the next day’s plan, what He hoped to accomplish, and asked for guidance from His Father on how to best go about it.

I certainly try to follow Christ’s example. But this idea of stopping what we’re doing and getting alone with the Father? For most of us it’s not part of our DNA. It is certainly not embraced by society. They would most likely label us as recluses or as displaying antisocial behavior. Instead of pulling away, taking some time, getting some rest—society says charge on, full speed ahead.

Why not begin to find some time in your day to be alone and quiet? Find some moments of your day—perhaps in the morning before the day gets legs—to spend time alone with the God who created you and all you see around you. Why not find some time each day to put your feet up and think?

God wants for there to be times when you simply escape with Him, alone, and recharge. Like you are doing right now, reading this. He wants to be with you and help you to slow down for a few moments and seek Him. It will give the two of you the chance you need to hang out together.

Uncommon Key > Spend time each day with God. Start with a couple of minutes of no phone calls, no interruptions—just you and God. Then gradually increase your time together.


January 12

Facing Reality

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James 1:23-24, NIV

Perceptions don’t win ball games. No team can rely on its reputation as a finesse team or a dome team or an offensive team. After all, it may not even be accurate—perception is not the same as reality.

I used to talk to my team often about the difference between perception and reality. The public perceives players as different from the ordinary people their families and friends know. But to win and be effective, our players needed to dig beyond perceptions and look at reality—not at their reputations, media personas, or past performances, but who they were on the field. And sometimes that process of uncovering reality could take a little work.

To develop a good game plan in life, we need to know who we really are—not how others perceive us, not the image of who we want to be or who society says we should be, but our true selves. That applies not only to us as individuals but to the teams we play on: with families, coworkers, church members, neighbors, and other groups we’re involved in. We need to know our strengths and weaknesses and how they fit into the big picture.

How can we all do that? We must occasionally stop and take stock of who we are and what our goals are. And we need an objective standard to do that, not just our personal opinions. When we measure ourselves, our thoughts, our actions, and our goals by our own standards, we may end up missing the mark. Our perceptions aren’t always accurate. But if we measure these things by God’s Word, we are basing our lives on reality, not perceptions. That is the kind of game plan that works.

It’s a process, and it isn’t always easy. But if we want to win—to live effective lives that contribute to society and further God’s purposes—we’ll take the time to look in the mirror of truth, see who we really are, and base our lives in reality.

Uncommon Key > Perception doesn’t accomplish goals; substance does. Know who you really are and where you are going, and then pursue your goals.


January 13


Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3

My parents raised my siblings and me on this verse. The words are so familiar that it’s almost like a friend giving me encouragement and clear direction in every season of my life. My parents helped me understand at a very early age that God would walk alongside me and bless me as long as I remained in His will. That is, if my siblings and I were doing the right things and following the pursuits that God put on our hearts.

Note, however, that the verse doesn’t give any indication of timing. We don’t know if God’s plans are for tomorrow or four years from now. For some people, the journey is long, like William Wilberforce, who worked for over forty years to abolish the slave trade in Great Britain. And it may be hard to recognize any discernible success. God calls us to be available and faithful to His ways and His Word. The result is up to Him; the impact and influence in the world and for His purposes happens in His timing, by His hand—and ultimately for our good and His glory. He has the big picture clearly in mind for each of us. If we commit to Him, our plans will succeed, as success is defined by Him.

Will it always be considered success in the world’s eyes? Not always. Things will occur which may or may not be recognized by society as successful, but the standard we tried to be guided by was whether the success resulted from committing our actions, lives, day-by-day efforts, and decisions to the Lord.

It probably got me in a little trouble at times—especially as a head coach—when I would suggest that while our goal was to win football games, make it to the playoffs, and even win the Super Bowl, there were other things I wanted our team to focus on that were more important to me. The reason? Because that is what I believed God called us to. To build traits like integrity and character, to help others in need, to seek God’s guidance and wisdom in every decision we made. To commit every action, everything we did, to the Lord.

What standard of success are you following? Are you seeking to make a difference and have a positive influence in the world around you? Are you committed to a plan or to Him?

Uncommon Key > Change your plan into His plan today. Do things for the right reason—to glorify God and be in His will. And your plans will succeed—at the time and in the way that God chooses.


January 14

Working with the Amount of Faith You Have

If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, May you be uprooted and thrown into the sea, and it would obey you! Luke 17:6

The Lord asks us to have faith. Faith in His promises. Faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Faith in the hope of the resurrection of Christ. Faith in everything He has set forth in His Word.

He asks us to believe without doubting, to ask without stopping, to seek until we find, to knock because the door will be opened, and to pray without ceasing, believing that what we ask for, seek for, knock for, and pray for He will do something about. But God also realizes that sometimes it’s tough to believe. Sometimes we feel like Thomas, asking for physical proof of Jesus’ resurrection. Sometimes we want to get our finite brains around an infinite God and understand things without having to do it on faith alone.

And usually those times are when we need to have faith even more. Often it’s in those times that the world keeps preying on us and nothing feels right. I’ve been there. There are days when I appreciate Thomas’s assertiveness: Show me, Lord. I need to touch Your hands. There are days when I, too, want to see the nail holes and hear His voice of quiet assurance. There are those days when I just seem to need a little more visible proof to go with the usual dose of faith.

Losing a playoff game. Being fired. Losing a child.

Some are important, some are not so important, but any of them can disquiet us or shake us to the core. Those are the days when I need to remember even more to just hang on, to clutch the faith He calls me to. The disciples had their moments of doubt, and Jesus was standing there, right in front of them. So I don’t feel quite so guilty when I have my moments of doubt. The disciples were struggling on a regular basis, and Jesus told them that it doesn’t always take much—it just takes some faith. Even faith as small as a mustard seed. That’s all we need—you and me—and He’ll take it home.

Uncommon Key > Christ doesn’t call us to understand it all, to see all of God’s plan for His Kingdom and our role in it. Instead, He wants us to have just enough faith in Him to continue to follow Him day by day on the path He has set before us. Step out in faith today.


January 15

Just between You and Me . . .

You must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you. Matthew 12:36-37

Every January there is a mad scramble for jobs in the NFL. Someone recently described it to me as musical chairs for grown-ups. For every head coach who gets fired from a particular team, there are anywhere from sixteen to twenty-five other coaches and staff members from that same team who are fired too. In a given year, if seven or eight teams change head coaches, about 150 people are suddenly looking for work—trying to get up to speed as new coaches in new organizations, sliding into vacancies on other staffs, or heading into the college coaching ranks. A mad scramble.

People around the league end up spending hours on the phone swapping information: I hear the guy in San Diego really doesn’t want to be there anymore; his mother is in Cleveland and is ill, so he’s trying to hook on with the Browns. Unfortunately, sometimes the initial private conversation that was told in confidence—Just between you and me . . . my mother is ill, so I’m wondering if I shouldn’t consider trying to move . . .—becomes very public. And like the childhood game of telephone, the facts get muddled.

The next thing you know, it’s all over the league: so-and-so wants out of San Diego. And when it comes back around to the front office of the Chargers, they might not be too happy.

Think twice before you say idle words, even if you think they are justified. Someday, we’ll all be asked to account for what we say.

Uncommon Key > If you have been asked to keep a confidence, honor that request. Think carefully before sharing information with someone else. Make sure just between you and me stays that way. Deflect gossip about a person with uplifting and edifying words about them, and never say anything you wouldn’t want that person to hear.


January 16

Never Stop Skiing

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 1 Corinthians 13:11-12

When he was nine, Nathan went skiing with his parents in Colorado. All along the ski slopes, signs were posted with the warning:


Each sign was approximately five feet high and eight feet wide—you couldn’t miss these large warning signs strategically placed beside the ski trails heading down the mountain. After three days of skiing, Nathan pointed to one of the signs as he and his dad were riding the ski lift to the top of the mountain. Daddy, have you seen one yet?

Seen what, Nathan?

A snow cat. Upon further discussion, Nathan’s dad realized that the snow cats his son was keeping a sharp eye out for were of the mountain lion, snow leopard, or comparable dangerous-animal variety. Smiling, Scott explained to his son that what the signs were referring to were the snowplow-like machines that drove up and down the slopes packing down the snow, machines referred to as snow cats.

Oh. Nathan breathed a deep sigh of relief.

You may have experienced a similar situation of misinterpretation with your children from time to time. But here’s what I want you to take from Nathan’s story: despite believing that at any given moment a mountain lion or snow leopard could leap out of the trees while he was skiing down the slopes, Nathan never stopped skiing. Instead, he pointed his ski tips straighter to be ready to outrun the danger.

Things take on a different perspective through the eyes and heart of a child.

But as the apostle Paul says, it’s not always going to be that way. Things that are a little muddied will be made crystal clear. God will dispel your fears, and you will be able to see things exactly as they are. Can you imagine the courage and hope you will sense when you stand before Him face-to-face?

Why not feel it now? No matter what you face, keep on skiing!

Uncommon Key > One day you will stand before the Hope of the world and see things more clearly. But you don’t have to wait to ask for His clarity on matters you are dealing with now. He is accessible to you and wants you to live like you believe it!


January 17

To Forgive or Not to Forgive?

If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15

These verses have always been a little disconcerting to me. I think I understand the plain message of the words, but does Christ really understand what He is asking me to do? I wonder if He knows about some of the things I still vividly remember that others have done to me through the years. And is He asking me to forgive them or I’m out of luck to receive His forgiveness for my wrongdoings?

I imagine proposing a simpler solution—why doesn’t God just forgive everyone (including me) as I believe He did through His Son on the cross, and we’ll be done with it? Don’t ask me to forgive them as well. And don’t put that contingency clause for my own forgiveness on the tail end of it.

And then I begin to look inside a little deeper, and I can’t help but wonder sometimes if I don’t have trouble forgiving others because I don’t want to forgive myself for all the stuff I’ve