“I‘m an average Joe.”
That’s how Joe Gibbs describes his life—and it sounds absolutely ridiculous! Coach Joe Gibbs stands alone in pro-sports coaching after having dominated two completely different sports—football and auto racing with multiple national championships in both sports. He’s not “average” at all.
But, when he makes that sincere disclaimer about his life, Joe is talking about our daily struggle to find inspiration and direction from our faith. In that arena of life, everyone faces the same challenge: How do we crawl out of bed the next morning after a failure? How do we make it through another stressful day? What truly matters in life?
THAT’S WHY YOU SHOULD ORDER THE BOOK NOW: The new Game Plan for Life Bible, NIV: With Notes by Joe Gibbs is sure to be a hugely popular choice for inspirational reading this winter. Got a “guy” in your life who shies away from Bible study and is leery of opening up about the challenges of his faith? Get him this Bible now—or grab it now and save it for Christmas. At ReadTheSpirit we don’t normally comment on the prices of books we recommend, but we have to say: Amazon’s discounted prices for hardback and Kindle editions are surprisingly low. One more tip: Think about buying both the new hardback and the Kindle version. That way you can flip open the book for more relaxed devotional times at home—and carry the Kindle version with you wherever you go.
WHO IS THIS LEGENDARY COACH JOE GIBBS?
If you’re a big-time sports fan—you can skip to the next part of this story. But, for those of us who don’t follow sports quite so avidly, here’s the background on Joe Gibbs’ greatest accomplishments …
IN FOOTBALL at the Super Bowl level: Gibbs’ Washington D.C.-based team beat Coach Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins in 1983 at Super Bowl XVII; then Gibbs’ team beat the Denver Broncos, led on the field by Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, in 1988 at Super Bowl XXII; and the D.C. team with Gibbs at the helm beat Coach Marv Levy’s Buffalo Bills in 1992 in Super Bowl XXVI.
IN NASCAR auto racing, Coach Gibbs’ list of accomplishments also is lengthy, including several major cups and series wins. Most important are three NASCAR championships with Bobby Labonte driving in 2000 and Tony Stewart driving in 2002 and 2005.
HOW DID A SPORTS GUY CREATE A BIBLE? Come back later this week for our author interview with Coach Gibbs and you will find him refreshingly down to earth about his role in this new inspirational Bible. He certainly is not setting himself up a a Bible scholar, trying to dominate yet another professional field. The key to understanding his approach to this inspirational study Bible is our opening line today: “I’m an average Joe.” Zondervan formed a team of scholars to provide the Bible analysis on important passages. The publisher asked Joe to write the “average Joe” meditations to appear within each chapter. It’s a very engaging combination.
SAMPLE OF THE GAME PLAN FOR LIFE BIBLE BY COACH JOE GIBBS
To show you what we mean, ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm compared the new Bible meditations with Gibbs’ earlier inspirational book, Game Plan for Life CHALK TALKS. In our author interview later this week, Joe Gibbs explains that many of his new Bible meditations are taken from chapters in the earlier Chalk Talks book. But that explanation is misleading, because the new Bible material actually is better than the earlier book. Case in point is one of Joe’s most important Bible meditations—on the book of James. We compared the James chapter in the Chalk Talks book with the version in the new Bible—and the new version of the story is closer to Joe Gibbs’ own original version of the experience. Plus, the new version is more thought-provoking in small but important ways.
In Part 2 of this story, Coach Joe Gibbs talks with ReadTheSpirit about his work on this new Bible. Here is a sample of the new Bible—Joe Gibbs’ introduction to the Book of James …
It was a traumatic time in my life. Our coaching staff on the St. Louis Cardinals—led by my first boss, Don Coryell—had been fired at the end of the 1978 season. But then I received a phone call from John McKay with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He wanted me to become his offensive coordinator—I jumped on it!
The season didn’t go well. After losing the first two games, I’ll never forget the post-game press conference when a reporter asked Coach McKay what he thought about the team’s execution. “I think it’d be a good idea,” was his sarcastic response.
He was a great coach, but he was used to calling his own plays. He reinserted himself as the offensive play caller, reducing my role and responsibility. I was deeply frustrated. No one would want to take a guy from a losing program and make him their head coach. And to top it off, a big part of my job was gone.
As the season wound down, I began agonizing over whether to stay or to find another coaching situation. I learned that Don Coryell had accepted an offer to coach the San Diego Chargers. I loved coaching for Don, so I prayed, “Lord, don’t have him call me unless you want me to leave Tampa Bay.” He called the next morning. But he wanted an assistant coach, a demotion for me. I was torn. If I went, I’d be stepping backward, and if I stayed, there was no guarantee anything would get better.
When I met with Coach McKay about my future at Tampa, he asked me to stay as offensive coordinator, but he still wanted to call the plays. I asked for some time to think about it, and we decided to meet again the next morning. It was a long night—losing my dream kept me awake. As I left for the meeting the next morning, I told Pat, “I still don’t know what we should do here.” Her advice was perfect: “Just let him do the talking, Joe. Say nothing until you hear all of his thoughts and plans.”
When we met, he pulled out a yellow legal pad and started down his list of things he wanted to talk about, reiterating his desire to call the plays. The longer he talked, the more I knew it was not the right situation for me. We parted friends. I accepted the job at San Diego with Coach Coryell, but I had little peace.
I decided to hop a plane to meet with my “spiritual father,” George Tharel, back in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It was snowing hard, and my connecting flight was cancelled. I was now stuck in a snowstorm at the airport in Fort Smith, Arkansas. After collecting my bags, I overheard two guys talking about driving to Fayetteville, and without giving them a chance to say no, I said, “I am going with you.” About a mile down the snow-covered freeway, it dawned on me these guys were not going to make it. I asked them to pull over, got out, and climbed over the center divider line in the freeway, bags and all, and hitchhiked back to the airport. I was freezing and dejected.
Thawing out at the gate, my eye caught a Bible laying on a table next to my seat. Though it was a little unusual to find a Bible sitting in an airport terminal, I picked it up and began reading James. I’d been studying this particular chapter where it talks about godly wisdom in making decisions. Out of the blue, a guy nudged me on the shoulder and told me that he’d recently claimed that chapter of James in his own life. “What?” I sputtered, truthfully taken aback.
This guy—a total stranger—was a pharmacist. He’d left his position to chase a dream job in another state. Upon arrival, he learned he’d have to take a tough test to be certified. He’d uprooted his family, left a comfortable life and now faced a career nightmare.
At the end of his rope, he read James for wisdom, telling the Lord, “I’m done. I’m turning this over to you. You know what I want to do in life, but I can’t do this. I’m just going to have to trust you.” He took the test. “I breezed the test, which seemed like an impossibility at the time.”
To this day, I don’t know if the guy was real—I think he was—or an angel God put there for me at a low point early in my career. What I did know then was that I had to give my career over to the Lord and trust Him. I had to do my best and let God handle the rest. The only open door I had was in San Diego, and I walked through it.
Two weeks after we arrived, the offensive coordinator left, and the job became mine. Two years later, after setting many offensive records with quarterback Dan Fouts and the famous Air Coryell offense, Jack Kent Cooke asked me to be head coach of the Washington Redskins.
Are you currently facing a career decision? Have you trusted God to direct your steps? My life is a testament to placing your career in God’s hands. It is the best move I ever made. No matter what He has called you to do in life, you can rely on Him to put you exactly in the right place that you need to be.
WANT MORE ON THE BOOK OF JAMES AND MEN’S BIBLE STUDY?
ReadTheSpirit writers collectively were drawn to Joe Gibbs’ writings, when we realized that Joe himself had a life-changing experience of immersing himself in the often-overlooked Letter of James in the New Testament. For several years, ReadTheSpirit has been promoting Bible studies starting with James—based on the fresh approach by literary scholar and pastoral counselor Dr. Benjamin Pratt in his Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins and 007’s Moral Compass: A Bible Study with James Bond.
Want to learn more about the Letter of James? We have an overview of James, and samples of the Letter of James, which you can read right now on our website.
How do books like Gibbs’ new Bible and our own James Bond Bible study work in churches? ReadTheSpirit just jointly published a new column about this challenge, written by Dr. Pratt for the website of the nationwide Day1 radio network. You can read Pratt’s article either on the Day1 website or posted here at the ReadTheSpirit site, as well. After years of working with this kind of material, Pratt knows what he’s talking about when he advises congregations on attracting inactive men, straying 20-somethings and other men and women who wouldn’t think of joining a Bible study group.
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.