Passionate teachers or coaches are positive and find the best in any situation to continue to motivate their class or team. This was a lesson that I learned from my players when I was coaching football. For two years I coached 8 man football at Trinity Lutheran High School in Reseda, CA. When I got there the team had not won a game in three years so I knew it was going to be a difficult task. Early in the season we played a very tough team and ended up falling behind 50 to 0. The guys kept playing hard, though, and on the next kick return one of our players brought it back for a touchdown! The team was happy because they scored on a tough opponent. After the game I should have focused on the positive effort the team displayed and the improvement we were showing. Instead I told them that we should feel bad because we got beat by so much and still have a lot of work to do. One of the freshmen on the team said to me, “What am I supposed to do, sulk and be down about the game? What is done is done. I am not going to let it get me down.” It was a fitting lesson for me and I agreed with the player. Later that season we were able to pick up a victory because the team stayed positive and continued to work hard.
In the Old Testament, Joseph, as well, did not get down when times were tough for him. He continued to focus on positive things like the love of God and living this out to others. At each stage in his life, Joseph tried to be the best that he could be. He did not always have many possessions or the best of circumstances, but he was still happy. It is a lesson that we can take with us. Happiness happens not when our circumstances change, but when our attitude towards them changes.
Coach Bill McCartney coached football for the University of Colorado Buffaloes who had not beat Nebraska for 23 years. He decided that he would change his players’ attitudes before the next time that they played in 1991. He challenged every player to call an individual and tell them they loved them and were dedicating their performance to them. Every play was going to be a dedication to the person they called. Coach McCartney then had the final score of the game put on 60 footballs so that each player could give the ball to their loved one. The final score: Colorado 27, Nebraska 12.
Most people spend 86% of their time thinking about themselves, but only 14% of their time thinking about others. It was clear that in Joseph’s life that this was not the case. He gave credit to God and was working towards helping and taking care of others no matter where he was.
Many people have held grudges against their brothers or family for far less than being sold into slavery, but Joseph did not. He was an optimist and trusted in God’s plan that good can come out of a bad situation. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Genesis 50:20 where Joseph is addressing his brothers after their father has died. Joseph’s brothers think that he may try to get back at them now for what they have done. Joseph however sees all of the struggle and hardship that he had to endure differently. You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
It is evident that Joseph would agree with the words in Philippians 4:11-13 that we should all take to heart, as well. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Because of Christ’s love for us, our mindset can be one of gratitude. We can show God’s love to others by loving what we do, working to help others, and looking for the good in any situation. Everyone has a passion. Christians know where their passion comes from—from the boundless love of God— and that is more motivating than anything else. When we work hard to show God’s love to others and to give glory to God we are successful no matter what our circumstances or the outcome.
Stohlmann, M. (2016). The world's greatest coach. Seattle, WA: CreateSpace.
Christian, author, and professor of mathematics education.