Character is our internal make-up. As I write this I’m also watching a special on quarterback Tom Brady called The Brady 6. We know Tom to be one of the greatest professional football players ever. How many of us know that he was a high school bench warmer for a team that didn’t win a game? He only began playing when the starting quarterback quit.
One thing that did not show up on the reports was Tom Brady’s heart. The scouts, coaches and team owners simply could not read, or thus comprehend, the drive Brady had to be the best quarterback ever.
Tom’s success as the general on the football field is not the result of native talent or skill. It is the result of internal make-up. Tom has great character in the game of football.
Great talent means he expends whatever time or energy it takes to improve his game. He practices harder than anyone. He treats each practice as an actual game. He puts pressure on himself that no one else does. He feels he has to win his starting spot everyday. So he works to become better, better, and even better.
The character Brady displays in athletics works in any and every field of endeavor. It certainly has application for us spiritually. Peter wrote, “Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ ... Therefore brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” 2 Peter 1:5-10 (ESV)
What Peter is writing about is developing our character. God in his mercy and grace saves us. But we are called upon to grow in the grace we have been given. It is not a matter of earning our salvation. But it is a matter of developing our hearts, minds and bodies to reflect the nature of God’s very being. Peter identifies the nature of this character as faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. These are eight important internal traits of a person seeking to be all that God wants him to be. They are not a matter of skill or talent; they are a matter of applying ourselves diligently to be more Christ-like. These are not matters simply for the specially gifted; they are for all of us.
John Luther wrote, “Good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are, to some extent, a gift. Good character, by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece - by thought, choice, courage and determination.” (Story’s for the Family’s Heart, 101). We develop the inner traits of character by how we think, the choices we make, the courage we develop to face and overcome our own weaknesses, and by determination to never give up on God or ourselves.
Every NFL team had numerous opportunities to pick Tom Brady in 2000, but it wasn’t until the 6th round, at draft number 199, that the New England Patriots announced, “We pick Tom Brady.” It would be two years before Tom had the opportunity to prove the true nature of his character to everyone. Today, after numerous NFL records and 3 Super Bowl rings, no one has any doubts.
Several college and NFL personalities were interviewed for the The Brady 6 special, including coaches who passed on picking Brady. One of them, former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci, said about his teams failure to pick Tom, “We didn’t open up his chest and look at his heart.” Funny, because that is just what God does, because he knows that’s where he’ll find our character.