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Summary: Sermon preached at the funeral of a retired physician.

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PLAY TO WIN

Isaac Butterworth

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NIV)

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Imagine that it is June. It is early morning, before sunrise. Someone stirs you from sleep and insists that you get up. Bleary-eyed, you wake just enough to see the time. It is 5:30. You remember that you’re in high school. But it’s summer and you don’t have to show up for class -- not today.

As your mind clears, you grasp the fact that you’re competing in the Texas-Oklahoma Junior Golf Tournament. Your tee time is eight a.m. That’s still two-and-a-half hours away. Who’s waking you up at this unseemly hour?

No sooner do you ask yourself the question than you know. It’s your grandfather, the man others call Dr. Kable. And, long before any of your competitors make it to the club house, you’re out on the driving range, practicing your swing in the dark.

That’s a window into Tim Kable’s life. That’s an appraisal of the impact of the way he approached life. He demanded perfection of himself, and he expected others to do everything possible to turn in their best performance. This was true whether it was on the field of play, in the classroom, or the O.R. Doing your best -- and reaching beyond your limits to do even better -- there was no other way that Tim Kable could see living.

He was not unlike the Apostle Paul in this regard. Golf hadn’t been invented when Paul was alive, so, in his writing, he used no golf allusions. But he used plenty of analogies to sports. For example, here in 1 Corinthians, chapter 9, he talks about running and boxing, two sports he knew well. ‘In a race,’ he says, ‘all the runners run, but only one gets the prize.’ Run, then, to get the prize. He could just as well have said, ‘In golf, all the players compete, but only one wins the trophy. Play to win.’

I don’t know that Dr. Tim had a life motto, but I think those words would come close to capturing his philosophy in living: Play to win. He brought excellence to everything he did.

To go back to Paul for a moment...he said, ‘Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.’ Dr. Tim knew that. It’s just another way of saying, everyone who wants to win disciplines himself. The way Paul put it was this. He said: ‘I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I [discipline] my body and make it [serve me].’

Some years ago, Stephen Covey wrote a best-selling book entitled The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Each of the ‘habits’ he commends in that book are worth tour attention, and my hunch is that Dr. Tim incorporated every one of those principles into his life long before Mr. Covey ever wrote his book. One that I know Dr. Tim practiced was this: ‘Private victory precedes public victory.’

You don’t show up at the tee box and perform your best without having spent time on the practice range. You don’t show up for class without having done your homework. You don’t face any external challenge without having prepared yourself internally. The challenges of life not only produce character; they reveal character.

And that’s what we know about Dr. Tim: he was a man of character. And no matter what he did in life, he knew how -- as kids today say -- he knew how to ‘bring it.’ And the reason was: he would ‘bring it’ in his mind and heart before he ever tried to ‘bring it’ in the view of others.

Dr. Tim had four great passions in life -- besides his family, and it goes without saying that his family always came first. And even they benefited from his other great loves. Dr. Tim was passionate about youth. He was passionate about medicine. He was passionate about teaching and learning. And he was passionate about sports.

And his great joy in life came from putting all these things together. He combined his love for young people with teaching and sports by coaching kids in almost every sport you can call to mind: football, baseball, basketball, and golf, for sure.

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