Basketball and spiritual living are two activities that are not typically perceived to be in the same category. This past weekend I had the opportunity to watching my elementary age niece and nephew play their very first basketball game. As I sat and watched them break every rule in the book, the Lord reminded me of the importance of living out our faith. I too, began playing basketball while I was in elementary school and continued playing through high school. Though I never became a very good basketball player, the Lord used the experience to aid me in my walk with Him and apparently He is still using it some 15 years later. As I sat and reflected on the various disciplines my coach used to improve our team dynamics, as well as our personal abilities, I was reminded of how the Lord too, desires for us to live a disciplined life. When our coach first came to our school, it seemed that she had a greater desire for us to win a track meet then a basketball game. We ran, and ran, and ran, and ran and when we thought we had reached a point of exhaustion that was most assuredly near death, we heard the whistle blow and those magical words of “get on the line” reverberating off of the walls of the gym and we ran some more! When we finally advanced from running all practice, our coach divided us into groups of 2 or 3 and placed us at several stations around the gym. We would rotate through these same stations day after day after day. Growing weary of the monotony, a teammate once asked our coach when we could do something else besides these stations, like scrimmage. As I grimaced with fear, thinking we were about to have to “get on the line” and run my coach simply said, “Have you mastered these yet?” To which my teammate replied, “No.” My coach ever so gently said, “Well, when you master these, we can move on something else.”
So many times I want to move on from where I am at. I don’t want to do the foundational work that is needed. Recently I have found myself thinking about how happy I will be once I am out of this phase of raising support. I want to attain the end goal of seeing a tribal church established without the monotonous struggle of raising support and learning a new culture and language. In the midst of wanting to fast-forward through everything I fail to realize all the growth that is occurring. I fail to realize how unprepared I am to embrace the end goal. With basketball, our coach saw our unpreparedness and need for instruction. Despite how eager we were to pick up a basketball and jump into a game we were in need of going back to some of the basics. We thought we were prepared to play ball, but in reality, we were only prepared to be defeated by our opponent. I am realizing that ministry is much the same; there is a lot of hard work that must be done before I can even began experiencing victory. That hard work may seem monotonous, purposeless, or even unbearable at the time but in the end it is worth it. If a basketball coach can see the imperfections of one of their athletes, then how much more can the Lord see the imperfections of His beloved child.
Our coach may have ran the life out of us, but when it was finally time to face our opponents our team had more endurance and stamina than any other. Our running wasn’t in vain, it paid off. In the same way, I know that where the Lord has me today is not in vain, it will pay off. Though I may not always enjoy it or understand it, He is at work preparing me for the work that He has called me to. I know that I am about to enter into an aspect of life and spiritual warfare unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Now, the Lord is my coach. He is ever so patiently working with me as He builds spiritual endurance and masters His work in me. He so mercifully does this, all so that I may participate in the ultimate game….bringing life to those who are yet to believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. For where I am weak, I pray that He will make me strong.