Pre-Game Motivational Speech: Facing Uncertainty With Confidence

Every great sports movie has a scene where the passionate coach is rallies wide-eyed athletes in a dimly lit locker room. Of course, in the movies, every line is scripted and all the responses choreographed. When the speech is over, the soundtrack builds to one of those inspiring crescendos that makes you want to lace up your shoes and go running or play basketball or football or hockey or baseball.

There's an interesting pre-game speech in the Bible. Before a major battle, King David's general, Joab, says this to his fellow officer and brother, Abishai: "Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The Lord will do what is good in his sight” (1 Chronicles 19:13).

As a person who believes God is intimately involved in human affairs, it's noteworthy that Joab doesn't just circle up the troops and say "God, give us this victory. Amen." Similar scenes certainly play out in other parts of Scripture. Instead, Joab fires off a speech with three components:

1. He calls for his team's best effort. "Be strong and fight bravely," he says. As a combat veteran, Joab knows every fight is difficult and unpredictable. It doesn't matter how many times he's gone out to do this, every new fight requires tenacity and effort. There are no guarantees, no easy victories. 

Whatever fight you're headed towards demands strength, sweat and courage. Anything worth fighting for (your marriage, your health, your financial wellbeing, your academic standing, your career) demands that you do just that, fight. Simply wishing, or praying without participating with maximum effort towards the desired outcome simply won't cut it.

2. He reminds everyone what this fight is about. If "be strong" is about the "how," then this next line is about the "why." He says, "We are fighting for our people and the cities of our God." I don't know about you, but when I'm only going to the mat for myself, I can tap out too easily. Or even if I keep grinding, the ultimate motive can still be selfish. 

But when the fight is for other people, when the battle includes stakes that affect other people, I seem to be able to find an extra gear. Sebastian Junger says many soldiers are driven less by patriotism than they are by their love of friends. When the safety, security or significance of those we care about is on the line, we dig deeper than we do when a win is just for us.

3. He declares that while they are responsible for their effort, God is responsible for the outcome. "The Lord will do what is good in his sight." Sometimes we go to the wall for our fight, and we still don't go home with a "W." It doesn't mean it wasn't worth it. It could mean there was something God wanted to teach in the defeat. And here's where I struggle… God' sight is different than mine. What God deems good is often not what I would have initially chosen. But this I know, God will do what is right in His own sight. God has his reasons, even if they aren't clear to me right now.

Be strong.
Fight hard.
For something bigger than yourself.
Know that God is in control of outcomes.
Wait to see what God says is good.
Celebrate the fact that God knows what He's doing.


Craig Custance