We Work Best When We Work Together
By Wally Odum
Casey Stengel made a comment about the challenge of managing a professional baseball team. His observation applies to life in general. He said, “It’s easy to get good players. Getting’ em to play together, that’s the hard part.”
Each of us faces that issue. How do I blend my abilities and talents with those of other people? How do I cooperate with others so we can reach our goal? That question applies to business, to family life and certainly to our walk with God.
There are individual sports and team sports. Wrestling, boxing and golf are individual sports. You’re on your own! Basketball, baseball and football are team sports. You’re only as successful as the team is. Christianity, and life really, are team sports. The key to success is knowing how to work with others.
Pride and selfishness hinder a team from being successful. Jesus instructed everyone, even leaders, to lay aside pride and live to serve others. The Apostle Paul understood the value of working effectively with others. He emphasized teamwork because he knew that we could only reach our goals through mutual effort.
In his letter to the Philippian church, he passed on advice about successful living:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Paul pointedly addressed a destructive attitude—selfishness. Focus on ourselves and our own interests at the expense of others will ultimately leave any of us isolated and ineffective.
When Paul wrote the Philippians, he mentioned selfish ambition. It is the translation of one Greek word. It meant self-seeking that focuses on the question, "What’s in it for me?” That word was commonly used to describe the political world of that day.
Paul’s additional challenge to consider others better than yourselves wars against selfishness. That advice goes against our fallen human nature. We live in a highly competitive world. We know that winners are rewarded. No one wants to be a loser.
Yet, Paul exhorted us to focus, not on our gifts, and ourselves but on others and their gifts. That doesn’t mean that I deny what God has given me, but it does mean that I value highly what God has given others. Everyone has some skill that makes him or her better than we are at some things. No one has it all, and what God has given others is important to us. Each individual has some unique combination of gifts and personality that gives him or her great value.
Jesus wants His disciples to model unselfishness. During the 1964 Olympics, in the two-man bobsled competition, a British team driven by Tony Nash had just completed its first run and was in second place. Then they made a most disheartening discovery. They had broken a bolt on the rear axle of their sled, which would put them out of the competition.
The great Italian bobsled driver Eugenio Monti, who was in first place, heard of their plight. He removed the bolt from the rear axle of his own sled and sent it to them. The British team placed it on their sled and then raced down the mountain, winning the gold medal. Monti’s Italian team took the bronze medal for finishing in third place.
When asked about his act of sportsmanship, Eugenio Monti modestly replied, “Tony Nash did not win because I gave him a bolt. Tony Nash won because he was the best driver.”
Because of his unselfishness, Monti was given the first De Coubertin Medal for sportsmanship. The award, named after the founder of the modern Olympics, is one of the highest honors an Olympian can receive.
God honors unselfishness. It is the only attitude that will make us winners in the end. As Casey Stengel demonstrated with the New York Yankees, championships are won when individuals play together. It works for church and, what’s more, it works in everyday life. It will work for any of us.
© Wally Odum 2011, used with permission.
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Pastor Wally Odum has been in ministry for 30 years and loves to share the Gospel. He brings a relevant, inspirational approach to the Bible. Wally values relevance, but he also values authenticity. His goal is to make Biblical truth relevant to the lives of all who hear him.
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