Summary: We are Christians on the basketball court of life and how well we play depends on how well we conquer sin in our lives.
I love to watch my grandchildren play basketball and I try very hard to seldom miss a game. My enjoyment does not come from them being superstars or because their team is always in first place. I enjoy the game because I love my grandchildren; I love seeing them participate in sports; and I enjoy watching them develop skills, which will serve them well throughout the remainder of their lives.
I admit there certainly is a great deal of enjoyment in watching a game where our team dominates; but, I believe I feel a deeper since of satisfaction when we play well regardless of winning or losing. There have been occasions when it was evident that the other team was definitely out playing our team, and the score reflected it. When this happens, and our players do not lose heart or sportsmanship, I am the most proud. A fourth quarter where the score is so lopsided you know you cannot win, and our teams continues to play just as hard as they would in a close game, is often the time when I can really feel team spirit flowing strong. Yes, it is true that all the players will not maintain a maximum effort, and a few will even let the score beat them into submission; but the players who never lose their aggressive edge are the real winners: the ones I love to watch. I love to see our team win; however, the sportsmanship and the spirit of the team means far more to me than the final score. I go to the game to encounter the spirit of the athelte; to watch players push themselves to levels their classmates could never reach; to watch young men and women excel in sportsmanship; and above all, I go to the game to watch a bunch of individuals transform into a single team.
THE CHRISTIAN GAME
If you are a Christian you are a new creation; your old attitude and way of doing things is passing away and you should now be learning to walk in the new ways of a Christian. In fact, when Christ freed us from our bondage to sin He placed us on the “basketball court of life.” Every single Christian stands on this court and they have the freedom to be in the starting string, spend most of their time sitting on the bench or they can walk off the court and join the spectators.
The basketball court of life may be in the spiritual realm but it not all that different from the physical basketball court in your school gym. No one steps on the court and is automatically a champion player. In the same way, you may be a new creation in Christ but that does not automatically make you a skilled player in the spiritual realm.
In the physical world, basketball is a complex game that requires considerable physical and mental training for a player to excel. For example, the process of correctly running and dribbling the ball is not a normal automatic reflexive action. To begin with, there is a moving object between your hand and the floor; and, your mind tells you to look at it so that the hand can make contact with it as it returns back from the floor. To properly handle the ball, however, a player must retrain their mind to not do what the mind is hardwired to do, which is to rely on visual imput to reposition the hand. The movement of the hand must be turned over to a subroutine in the mind while the brain uses visual imput to determine: what path am I runnning right now; where are my team members; where are the opposing team members; where do I want to go from here; who is open now; who might be open in the future; and, on top of all this, the player needs to keep their opponent from taking the ball away from them. To minimize the processing load, which the player’s mind is dealing with, a player must master various plays; at least the good good players will master them. Of course, this is assuming your team mates know the plays as well. All of this is just the tip of an iceberg when it comes to learning to play basketball. The point I am trying to make is that basketball is a complex game requiring considerable physical and mental training for a player to excel.
The physical game of basketball requires tremendous individual training but it also demands that the individuals transition into a team. The spiritual game of basketball is no different. If you are to become a good Christian athlete it will require the same sacrifice that any athlete must make: time, devotion, training, self-discipline, and most important, it will take obedience. In the same way, if a church is to become effective for Christ it requires the church to transform into a team. A church with individual Christians is no more effective than a basketball team full of “prima donnas.” An effective church is a team where the leaders are mature Christians who have a mission and carry out that mission as part of a team.