Dan Rather has been part of my awareness ever since he reported on the assassination of President John Kennedy in 1963. This past week he was asked about his thoughts, as a seasoned reporter (he’ll be 90 next year), on the transfer of government from one presidential administration to another, in a time of such political chaos and fear and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His answer was simple but profound: “I don’t want to be sophomoric about it, but you know, in Texas high school football, coaches preach the gospel of clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose, and I think that’s the best attitude for us as a people in this situation.”
I liked his slogan, but I didn’t get the allusion to “Texas high school football,” so I did a little on-line search. I soon learned that the phrase “Clear eyes; Full hearts; Can’t lose” is a repeated idea in the TV drama “Friday Night Lights,” which played for five seasons, from 2006 to 2011. I never watched an episode because the subject matter seemed to glorify the superficial success of teenagers who haven’t yet faced the challenges of real life, but I went to YouTube to get a taste of what Dan Rather was referring to. I discovered that the coach of the fictional high school football team from a small Texas town came up with this slogan to inspire his deflated players during halftime of a crucial game. From then on, it became the team’s rallying cry, as well as the TV series’ theme idea. You can hear an inspirational speech by the coach, as well as a theme song by rapper T. Powell, here.
It suddenly struck me that the coach’s words can be seen as a challenge to us as believers in a difficult halftime in our role as citizens of America. It also is a good summary of what our strategy should be in facing any challenging life situations: “Clear eyes; Full hearts; Can’t lose.”
I looked for a Bible verse that puts these three ideas together, but I was unsuccessful. The closest I came was a warning from the Apostle Paul about what happens when unbelievers follow the opposite life strategy:
They are darkened in their understanding (unclear eyes), alienated from the life of God (can’t win) because of their ignorance and hardness of heart (empty heart). (Ephesians 4:18)
But there’s no question that all three elements of our life challenge are parts of God’s design for those who follow him through times of testing.
Clear eyes – Jesus said,
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. (Matthew 6:22)
This is an obvious reference to understanding and wisdom, the ability to discern what is true and what is false. A person in tune with God’s Spirit will be able to smell out fake news about politics, as well as fake teachings about religion and faith.
Full Hearts – This is about caring, about sincerely loving. A Proverb in the Old Testament says,
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (Proverbs 4:23)
And Jesus built on this idea by saying,
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good . . . for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)
Can’t Lose – The bottom-line truth of our Christian faith is expressed by the Apostle Paul:
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? . . . I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-32, 38-39)
“I’m ready, Coach. Put me in!”
– Pastor George Van Alstine