Well, its that time of year again.  The final weeks of College Basketball are upon us as we watch to see who makes it to the Final Four and the championship game.  We are one week away from the start of a new season of Major League Baseball, were everyone starts out with the same record, but only one team will go all the way.  Do you get excited watching your favorite team or players battle it out in a close game that comes down to the wire?  Do you have a favorite memory of playing any sport as you were growing up, even if just in little league?   You know God is probably a baseball fan, since the Bible starts out with ‘In the big inning.’  Do you think He has a favorite team?  It’s probably not the (insert put-down joke of your least favorite team here).

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.  1 Timothy 4:12

What did you learn from playing (or watching) sports as you were growing up?  You may learn that all players, and coaches, make mistakes and are not perfect, whether or not they admit it.  You can learn that practice does improve your skills and often your ability to play together as a team.  There is a lot you can learn about yourself, your abilities, limitations, and ways you can grow.  A good coach or teammate might help you realize this in some areas better than you can yourself.  Did you ever have someone recognize a potential in you and call it out before you had confidence in yourself (either in sports or other areas of life).  A truly good coach makes everyone a better player, and not just a select few.  A truly good teammate gives both encouragement and constructive criticism when appropriate.  With both of these in place, you can learn to both win and lose with dignity, and have more concern for other people than for winning a game. 

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7

Are most games won by good coaching or by just having more talented players?  Could be either or both.  Maybe, during the All-Star game, they should have one team coached by a goat, and the other by a horse, to see which animal is better, since it seems to be more of an exhibition than a real game anyway.  Either could probably do better than my high school basketball coach.  So, what makes a decent coach/manager from a great one?  The best coaches recognize the strengths, limitations, and potential of all their players and use them all the best they can to create wins.  Surely you have seen the Cinderella story of a team of mostly average players who work together to upset the more talented team in the playoffs.  There are more of these waiting to happen each season, but in the end, does it really make a difference?  Does it matter if a team has a winning or losing season?

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8

What about when it comes to your faith?  Are you in the game, waiting till they need you and sitting on the bench, or just watching from the stands?  Most folks sitting in the pews are in the latter category.  They tend to help out only if needed, give a few cheers when something exciting happens, but mostly just watch what goes on and yell at the coaches, umpire, or players when things aren’t going the way they want.  All things considered, its best to be in the game where things are happening, and you can be a game changer.  Who are you turning to for advice…the coach sending you signals, your teammates, or the critics in the stands, telling you what to do?  Even if you are not the best player, if you give it your best, you can still be a factor in the game.  Less likely from the peanut gallery.  So, encourage your teammates, even when things are not looking the best.  If someone isn’t going after the pop fly, chase it down and lead by example.  Are you ready to give your all and play ball in the big game?

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.                            1 Thessalonians 5:11

Yours in Christ,

Clark