The Christian Life and Tournament Play
“March Madness”, also known as the NCAA, Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, is almost here! Do you have a favorite?
I always cheer for the University of Kentucky, since my family roots are in Lexington. I must admit, while I have crossed paths with UK players and coaches in the past, my current knowledge of the team is based almost entirely on what I hear and see on TV. It is true, I pick up a few pieces of critical analysis here and there from some Wildcat haters, but I just pray for them and move on.
This week I was pondering how “March Madness” might resemble my walk with the Lord. The contrasts were easier to spot. In the NCAA tournament, only one team is crowned. In Christ’s kingdom, everyone who trusts and obeys is victorious. Tournament teams play against one another. Followers of Christ help one another win since they are all on the same squad. Finally, the outcome of the tournament is uncertain, and things get exciting when a number one seed is defeated. When it comes to our Christian walk, the end is already settled, and should others fall, we rush to restore them so they won’t miss out on the party.
Maybe the comparisons are fewer than the contrasts. Yet, consider these:
While victory is certain, we have an adversary who would like to see us fall. One of the frustrating aspects of our walk with the Lord now is Satan’s determination to sideline us with various trials and temptations. Together with his demons, he sits behind the basket and waves his arms to distract us when we come to the line for a free throw. He boos when we succeed and cheers when we fail. Satan is definitely the loser, but nothing would make him happier than to take us down with him.
We play according to the rules. Rules are game-changers in basketball, especially when a star player picks up two unnecessary fouls in the first few minutes of the game. There are, of course, worse penalties incurred by entire school programs when coaches are caught violating recruiting policies. Don’t misunderstand. Our salvation is not achieved with rules. It was won on the cross when Christ paid for our sins with His own blood. On the other hand, God has given us coaching instructions in His Word that help us thwart the plans of Satan so we can play at our highest level. The Apostle Paul once wrote these words to his protégé Timothy: “Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5)
We have fans in the stands cheering us on. Ok, so not everyone in an arena cheers for the same team. But in the church, since we are all on the same team, we spur one another on to victory. Perhaps you are familiar with the “great crowd of witnesses” referenced in Hebrews 12:1. There is some question about whether this crowd involves Christian on earth who encourage us, faithful believers who are waiting to greet us in heaven, or both. Regardless, we have countless, faithful servants of the Lord cheering us on to victory. Many of these have suffered tremendously for the cause of Christ and they know all about the obstacles Satan puts in our paths. We are not alone in our walk. We are surrounded by fans who share in our victory.
Perhaps your favorite team will be holding the trophy at the end of this year’s “March Madness”. My team has a shot, if they decide to play as a team.
That’s always the deal, isn’t it? The most talented players are never as good as individuals as they are when they grasp the importance of “team.”
In regards to our walk with Christ, pray for me, and I’ll pray for you. We already know the outcome of our struggle, but if the Lord allows us to remain here for a while we are going to be tested. I am certain of our victory, and thankful to have you with me on the journey.
Don’t forget the one trophy that will remain when all of the others turn to ashes. It was won by our Lord when He crushed Satan on a hill called Calvary.
Oh, and expect some boos from the enemy every now and then. He’s still thinks he has a chance.
Pathetic, but true.