God and the Championship Game
A lot of prayers are offered to God during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Some are pious: “God, help my team live up to its potential, to play with good sportsmanship, and regardless of the results, to bring glory to your name.”
Some are manipulative: “God, if you help my team win, I promise to stop cussing.”
Some are self-righteous: “God, allow my team to win so the world will see that You honor those who honor You with their lives.”
And some are seriously misguided: “God, give us victory over those scumbags.”
I am not sure how God feels about basketball, although I am confident, He indeed uses it for His glory. But regardless of His interest in this, or any other organized sport, I know He knows something about championships.
One match up in particular was a true “Cinderella Story”. An epic contest involving the underdog and the big dog. A single elimination 16 seed against a 1 seed, that was bound to end badly for the people of God.
The favorite was a tall center named Goliath. The “soon-to-be-fed-to-the-buzzards” contender was a little point guard by the name of David. They met on a level piece of ground with two massive armies in the stands.
The Philistines put their hope in Goliath.
Well. We aren’t told, but it is possible they had one eye on their best route of escape. As soon as David fell, they needed to start running.
Really, really fast.
But God has a way of turning life’s odd on end. David grabbed 5 stones from a brook and faced down Goliath with nothing but a sling. Goliath laughed at him and mocked him, but David slung a stone at his forehead and as the children’s song says, “The Giant came tumbling down.”
There are lots of great stories that emerge in a tournament, and many life-lessons learned. One lesson is how our perspective changes once we realize we are strong enough to beat the opposition. There is an aura that surrounds teams that appear to be unbeatable. But when someone comes along and beats them, others are emboldened. Suddenly, what was once thought impossible is possible.
I realize there are limits to this principle. A squad of six-year old children, taking the court for the first time in a recreation league, are not going to match up well against an NBA team.
Well, maybe against…
Never mind. I’ll leave it there.
My point is that God isn’t bound by human ranking systems. He not only has the power to impact our outcomes, but also to use the outcomes He deems best for His eternal purposes. In other words, He can make us victorious when we appear defeated. And even when we are defeated, He can use our defeat to accomplish a victory.
No one could have appeared more defeated than Christ on Calvary, but He was actually on the verge of the greatest conquest in history. Three days later He would proclaim victory over sin and death, and the gates of hell would quake.
When a lesser ranked team beats a higher ranked team, they call it an “upset.” That’s because things didn’t turn out the way people thought they would. But is it really an upset when the rankings were upside down to begin with? When a 1 should have been a 16 and a 16 should have been a one?
God didn’t upset Satan at the cross. He just clarified the situation. Had Jesus remained in the tomb, that would have been an upset – the eternal Son of God destroyed by the god of this world.
Instead, He rose, setting the record and the rankings straight.
I encourage you to maintain an upside-down view of victory. Remember, Jesus said the first will be last the last will be first (Matthew 20:16). Our eternal success isn’t dependent on our own victory, but our decision to share in His.
The Goliaths that threaten to taken us down can be brought down with a single blow. But only if we remember who we are.
What He did.
And why it matters.