For the first time in my adult life, I made it through the first weekend of March Madness without picking a single game incorrectly! Yes, crazy right?! Well, before you get all excited thinking I was prophetic enough to have the Flyers and Vols reaching the Sweet Sixteen, let me share this little bit of information: I also didn’t pick a single game correctly. That’s right, not a single tournament prediction from me. I guess I was just too busy or too indifferent or in need of a topic for today’s blog. Whatever the reason, I simply didn’t fill out a bracket this year.
You know, this got me thinking… Just because I wasn’t wrong about anything, doesn’t mean I was right. Just because I haven’t lost, doesn’t mean I’ve won a thing. 'Not losing' isn't the same as winning. What is true in bracketology is true in life. You gotta play to have any chance of winning. Sitting the sidelines may keep you from making an early embarrassing first round exit, so to speak, but you can only win if you play.
Now let me pause for a second to clarify what I'm addressing. I’m not referring to how one is saved from sin. In that regard, we are helpless and hopeless apart from the atoning work of Christ on the cross. The Gospel announces the good news that Jesus came to save those that were lost. He came to give life to the dead. So truly, the Gospel is good news because it reminds us that we not only would not and could not have ever won on our own, but that if it were left up to us, we would have never even wanted to play. Thank God for sending Jesus in our place! So then, now that we are clear, what I’m referring to today is our obedience. For us to experience the fullness of our victory in Christ, we’re going to have to take the court.
Victory requires some sort of risk. And yes, that means we may drop one every now and again. We will assuredly fall short from time to time. However, as I scan the scriptures, I see a theme of upsets and Cinderella stories everywhere. I see Jesus choosing a group of ordinary and unschooled guys to be His disciples, before eventually turning over the responsibility of spreading the Gospel to this same group of goofballs. I read of the apostles being sent out and taking some licks along the way. Yet it was through their faithfulness and the long line of saints that followed that the message of hope was eventually delivered to me (and you). I read of the Old Testament heroes of faith and see more scars and warts than quality traits, yet God was somehow glorified in their struggles. To stick with the basketball analogy, the bumps along the road prepared them to make a deep run later. That is, their authentic faith, though often weak and inconsistent, proved the faithfulness of the One who called them. Through their grace-driven pursuit of God, they were able to make much of Him.
So do we really have an excuse to not play? Clearly, God redeems the irreverent and rebellious. He also seems particularly pleased to work through the most undeserving and unlikely of characters. So while there is some risk and uncertainty, isn’t that what faith is all about? Would we rather stay in the stands where it is seemingly safe or take a chance at savoring hard fought triumph? Are we satisfied with being a spectator or is the risk of facing some bruises worth lacing it up and hitting the floor? It wouldn’t be March without a Hoosiers reference. Watch the following clip and consider Coach Norman Dale’s words to Scott…
I believe the same is true for us too. God wants us on the floor! Faith is meant to be the vehicle that carries the righteous through life, not a hobby that we only enjoy when circumstances allow. Whether we are challenged to be more steadfast in loving our spouse, called to parent our children more intentionally, prompted to steward His resources more devoutly, or charged to finally share the good news with our coworkers, God is calling us to obey Him and trust Him more deeply. For in our obedience, He is glorified. Through these experiences we discover how much better He is. We see Him as greater, stronger, sweeter, and far more beautiful than all else. We realize that He is our treasure. We see that victory belongs to Him and it is something He freely grants to His children… We discover that He is already on the court, leading the way, and since that's where He's found, there is no other place that we’d rather be. May we enjoy the dance and find that our greatest reward is Christ alone.
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