It seems basketball frenzy has taken over the digital network. Have you been watching any of the basketball games? I admit to watching two of them recently, both of them edge of the chair, nail-biting, hold-your-breath exciting. I’m not a TV watcher and not a sports fan, so there were already two strikes against the probability that I would use up minutes to watch a basketball game on television, but I did. What was so compelling about those games? Three things. First, the timing – I was folding laundry which is typically the only time I watch television. Second, the teams that were playing – Ohio State is ‘the team’ one friend supports and Michigan (the blue team) is the one another friend supports. Third, the team work – I was immersed in the way those teams on the court and from the sidelines supported each other.
I confess, I don’t remember any of the details that a sports fanatic would find important. I don’t remember the opposing teams, the ending score, or who scored the most points. I don’t remember the names of the heroes credited with winning the game. What I do remember is the clock ticking down while the skirmish on the court produced first one team ahead by one, then the opposing team had their chance to be in the lead – back and forth till the final seconds of the game and whoosh! In the final four seconds of the game a player for Ohio State aims and fires off a shot from the 3-point zone and sinks it. Michigan went into overtime, but much the same thing happened there. The teammates passed the ball back and forth, several three-point baskets, the opposing team did the same, but in the end Michigan pummels the court, makes the basket and there is virtual eruption in the stadium. The final basket, the careful checking of the recorded tape, the winner proclaimed, the beginning – because the next game is already being planned.
Watching those players work as a team was an amazing work of art. I couldn’t keep up with the ball even from an angle where I could see the full court and every player on it. How do the players know who to toss the ball to, and how many seconds remaining before the team has to attempt to shoot a basket, and how to get through the maze of opposition to get to the place where they can toss the ball toward the target. Many would say that those games were won or lost in the final seconds of the game. I disagree. The final score was the deciding factor but the games were won or lost by the strategies and interactions of the players through every moment of the game. Teamwork! And practice! Vince Lombardi, a famous football coach said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”
This is how it is in life too. We can do some things on our own, independent of anyone else, for a while, but not for an extended period of time. We were created for relationship and need each other. Whatever path in life we are on, there we find relationships. Our first and primary relationship is with God. He created us in his image. Genesis 1:27 “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” And from that point on, we all were destined for relationships. It might have taken civilization a few thousand years to coin the term ‘team work’ but here is where we are. The game of life.
Life is a contact sport and sometimes we get beat up pretty bad. Sometimes it’s difficult to be part of the whole. Right? Sometimes I want to yell, ‘Stop the world and let me off, just for a little while.” Are you with me on this? Sometimes I pass the ball off and it falls to the ground, a dead ball. Other times, I pass the ball off – right into the hands of the opposing team. I aim high, and the ball goes far outside my target. Then there are those instances when the ball is in play, it gets passed and caught smoothly, hands touch it, move it to the next player, back to me, I aim, and it’s inside the hoop, it spins, it sinks we all win. I have a whole Bible full of scripture that advised on how to be the ultimate team player. Here are a few of my favorites for acting as a good team member:
Psalm 89:15 “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, Lord.”
Psalm 106:3 “Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.”
Matthew 6:1-4, 14-15 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you…. or if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
Let’s finish up with 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 from the Message translation “The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.”
Wherever you are today, be assured that God is with you.