“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16.

I recently came across an article about Nick Saban, the head football coach at the University of Alabama that I found very interesting. I am more of an admirer than a fan of Alabama and Saban. In general, however, I am intrigued by college football coaches, specifically how their leadership abilities contribute to their success on the field.

So here is why a diehard FSU fan found the Saban article fascinating. It was his eating habits. That’s right, his eating habits. Each day he eats the same thing for breakfast and lunch. For breakfast he eats two Little Debbie Oatmeal Creme Pies. For lunch, Saban has a salad of iceberg lettuce, turkey, and tomatoes. The salad for lunch makes sense for most people. But the creme pies for breakfast and the same thing day after day, after day. Not so much. The reporter interviewing the Alabama coach asked the obvious question –  why?  His answer is what made the article interesting. “The same, regular menu every day,”  he said, “saves him the time of deciding what to eat each day…”

Let that sink in for a second and see if you come up with the same rationale for the same menu each day that I did. If Nick Saban is thinking about what to eat, that is time that he is not thinking about that new wrinkle on offense or planning that defense to stop a running quarterback.  In Saban’s case it is all about the game, about recruiting the next great draft class and how to get each player to buy into his system. This is a coach who has intentionally, maybe even fanatically, ordered his day to align his time and commitments to his priorities. You don’t get to the pinnacle in a highly, competitive field and stay there year after year by accident. Or by simple luck. It is achieved through a laser focus on your priorities and developing a strategy, planning, discipline, and sacrifice.

This made me think a bit about leadership and about time.  A few weeks ago in the Simplify series I talked about that very subject. I said in that message that I was initially pretty good at mis-managing my time. I had a seemingly inexhaustible supply of reasons to do something else, and an infuriating ability to think I can get everywhere and do everything when push came to shove. There’s probably some personality test that will tell me the name of this condition and give me a reason to say “that’s just the way I’m made.” But, as I said in the message, I learned to find some margin in my life for the things that mattered. And things got a whole lot better.

But the Saban article caused me to pause and look at my priorities of  serving the Lord Jesus Christ and winning souls for God’s kingdom. Nothing else matters.  Nothing else should hold my attention, at least for very long.

A Biblical example of a Saban-like focus is Nehemiah. The well-known story is about Nehemiah’s singular focus in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. Despite the many things that made his task more like a game-show obstacle course than working through the details of a simpler project, Nehemiah continued building that wall.

Do you know why Nehemiah continued building that wall?

Nehemiah continued building that wall because it was the thing God had given him to do.

Which made me realize that my own obstacle course can sometimes distract me from the things God has given me to do. I have things to do. Life is an obstacle course, to be sure. Even still, I can focus on and retain the God-given calling(s) on my life which is to win people to Jesus Christ.

I have walls to build. And, if you think about it, I’m sure you will discover that you have walls to build as well.

My prayer is that in 2014, we will have the wisdom and strength to fulfill our vision of helping the whole world find and follow Jesus.