I love basketball. This is an understatement. I truly love the game and all of the life lessons one can gather from it. Today after church, I took the kids to Cascade Athletic Club and we played basketball for hours (second day in a row). After we were done playing and were driving home, I thought of a life lesson from the game. I’m around 6’4″ tall and I was posting a younger guy up who was about my height, maybe a little taller. I called for the ball and got it. Because the team had isolated me, I knew I had him. It was just him and me and because he was no more than 19-years old and had probably been playing basketball about half of his life, I had him. You see, I have been playing basketball for 22-years. You get the picture. He is toast. I knew he was beaten before I made one iota of a move. This may sound arrogant, but it’s not. It’s confidence in my ability, my experience, and my knowledge of human behavior in the game. Larry Bird said that 90% of basketball is mental and he was living proof. And it’s true. So realizing I was one-on-one with my opponent, knowing the youthful impatience every young player possesses, and realizing that most young players like making “flashy” plays like those seen on ESPN, I knew he was, not just toast, but burnt toast. I had already scored in my mind, but in his mind, he was awaiting the opportunity to make a highlight out of me so he could point to himself. It may sound like I’m judging this kid, but what you don’t know is that I had watched him play three games before we officially met in the post area. Overconfident and teeming with arrogance and a demeaning attitude even toward his own teammates, I was driven to humble the young man in a gentle, quiet, and very powerful manner.
I received the ball in the post on the left side. My right should was facing the basket. The first thing I do is feel where his body is pushing against me. This tells me where he is…and where he’s not. The second thing I do is to look around and make sure one of his teammates isn’t coming to help. If they do, then it’s time to pass the ball. And the third thing I do is look at his eyes. Regardless of the first two things, if my opponent makes eye contact with me, he is TOAST. And guess what. Young stallion here was looking me right in the eyes. I only need a quarter of a second of eye contact before the opponent is toast. Our eyes met and I spun quickly and powerfully (he wasn’t expecting the powerfully part) toward the baseline, pump faked, he flew by, and very, very easily put the ball in the hoop. OK Jamie, that sounds just wonderful, what’s the point?
The point is this: as a Christian you are called to stand firm. You are never, ever supposed to do life or ministry on your own. The Bible does not support privatized Christianity. When you operate within a Christ-centered life, you operate in community. You must also understand there is an enemy out there who doesn’t want to disrupt you. The enemy wants to take you out, embarrass you, and don’t be the guy or girl guarding the Gospel entrusted to you (your basket) alone. In my basketball analogy, you can think of me as the enemy. I’m on the attack. I want to score on you. I’ve been around longer than you, I’m smarter than you, I’m wiser than you, and I’ve been watching your game longer than you would ever guess or imagine. In fact, my money says you won’t guard me half as intensely as I’m going to attack you…guaranteed. Why the guarantee? Because the enemy knows that most Christians are really just Christian atheists. A Christian atheist is someone who talks the talk and claims to be a Christian, but other than Sundays, their lives show little to no evidence of a Christ-centered life. If you’re wondering if this is you, let me give you a simple test to help. If Christianity was illegal in the United States and carried the death-penalty, when investigators kicked down your door and talked to everyone you know at work and in your family, would there be enough evidence to put you in the chair?
If not, you’re guarding the enemy in the post one-on-one and you, let me be clear on this, YOU HAVE NO CHANCE. It’s just a matter of time and opportunity before you make eye contact, mis-position your stance, or go for the pump-fake. Many Christians wonder why the enemy is able to suck them into temptation and then wonder why their lives are ridden with failures due to sin. Their conscious and intentional lifestyle of sin have rendered them helpless against the enemy. As long as they are playing one-on-one defense, they are toast.
Like the defender I beat quite easily, you must not play one-on-one defense when your life is designed for team cooperation. God never intended you to live your Christian life or any other life apart from others. A Christ-centered life isn’t intended to be just you and God. You need teammates to help you when the enemy is attacking, especially this enemy. Listen, the enemy will call for the ball and he’ll call for it on your turf. He doesn’t care about you. In fact, he hates you and your family and your children and most of all he hates your God. Here’s the most troublesome part. He calls for the ball each and every day; sometimes many times per day. And you can’t defend on your own. You don’t have what it takes. But God does. And God gave you the gift of people. He put them in your life to help you.
Look in your circle of life. Who encourages you to seek the Lord? Who encourages you to connect with others? Who encourages you to do your own thing? Who encourages you to abandon the spiritual and adopt the material? Where is your heart? The place your heart resides will determine your game. Are you playing one-on-one? If you are, turn your heart back toward God and ask Him to forgive you. Turn your heart toward God right now. No more pretending. No more procrastinating. No more emptiness.
“Heavenly Father, I turn my heart toward you. I’m tired of playing one-on-one defense and I’m tired of being a Christian atheist. Help me. I surrender my life to you. Come into my heart and into my life. I want to make you the Lord of my life again. Help me to connect with others who will encourage me and lift me up for Your sake. In Jesus’ name, amen.”