“Losing a game is heartbreaking. Losing your sense of excellence…is a tragedy” Joe Paterno

At the start of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., the U.S. hockey team was little more than an afterthought.

The Soviets were seeded No. 1, and deservedly so. They had won five gold medals and one bronze in the previous six Olympics.

The U.S. team was seeded seventh.

The Soviets unleashed 30 shots in the first two periods to the United States’ 10. One dramatic save after another by goaltender Jim Craig kept the U.S. team close.

Mark Johnson scored with one second remaining in the first period to tie it at 2 all, but the Soviets led 3-2 after two periods.

Team member John Harrington was quoted later as saying, “We’d played 40 minutes, they were just one ahead, but we were younger. We wanted to take it to ‘em!

Johnson tied it again 8:39 into the third period. At the 10 minute mark, Mike Eruzione, team captain, took Harrington’s pass from the corner and unleashed a shot past a Russian defenseman and through the goalie into the net.

The explosion of cheers was deafening, and most of the 10,000 fans began a chant of “USA! USA!” that did not end for the final 10 minutes.

At the final buzzer, against seemingly insurmountable odds, the U.S. team was victorious.

After the game, coach Herb Brooks pulled a yellow card from his pocket with the scrawled message on it that he had read to his team just before the game:

“You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here.”

What’s interesting is that the U.S. team was not playing to win the gold medal. That game was two days later (which they won). They were simply putting it all on the line against the best team they had ever played.

If you have ever seen the movie “Miracle”, you will remember the portrayal of young men with unyielding determination to excel… to be excellent, to be the best they could be.

Our faith-walk is no different. The Apostle Paul says, that like an Olympian runner, we are to strive in life to “press (earnestly endeavor to acquire) on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14 ESV)

Consider these other verses of challenge in your journey to excellence:

“Whatever you hand finds to do, do it with all your might…” Ecclesiastes 9:10 NASB

“But as you excel in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you…” 2 Corinthians 8:7 ESV

“And he (Jesus) said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:37 ESV

In 1 Corinthians Paul admonishes the church in Corinth to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58 ESV). The word translated “abounding” (perisseuo) literally means outstanding… doing over and above… excelling.

No matter what, do your best. Be your best. Strive for excellence. Excel!! And always keep your heart and mind centered on Him.

It will turn your life around!

Posted on: Sept. 5, 2014, 3:56 a.m.