March Madness

A blog post from Crosspoint elder, Ben Martin…

Well, we’ve come to that time of the year again.  No I’m not talking about warmer days, green grass, and chirping birds (although I’m looking forward to all that). I’m talking about basketball.  A time that is called March Madness.  It’s the culmination of both the high school and college basketball seasons.  This is my favorite time of the year for sports, that is unless the Phillies are in the World Series this fall. I most look forward to the college NCAA tournament. Growing up, my family was always involved in watching the pairings that would come out on Sunday night, and then we waited in anticipation for the Thursday and Friday mayhem to ensue. We would have our brackets filled out with what we thought was the perfect combo of upsets and wins…oh, and maybe some trash talk too!

Even if you’re not a basketball fan, or even a sports fan in general, I want you to bear with me for a little bit. I may be using illustrations from basketball, but we can do this in just about anything we do.  I want us to look at our Christian walk and see where and how we can apply the Gospel and the truths of Scripture in our life. Listed below are some things I look forward to watching during a basketball game, especially when there is something at stake. Let’s take a look.

Defense:  I like watching teams with a smothering, pressure defense.  Whether they play a man-to-man or a zone, defense is key.  A lot of coaches will even say, “Defense wins ball games”.  Teams need to be on high alert and conscious of many things like back door cuts, pick and rolls, drives to the basket, 3 point shooting, and of course the aerial assault of an alley-oop.  To be successful, you need a good defensive strategy, you need to be on guard, and you need to execute.

A good defensive strategy is key for the believer also.  We need to constantly guard our minds against the devil’s schemes (Eph 6:11).  Our enemy wants nothing more than to kill, steal and destroy.  He wants to distract us with all kinds of lures and enticements of the world, in order to deceive us, and take our attention off of God and put it on our self.  We need to not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Ro 12:2). Staying alert is a must (1 Cor 16:13)!  So, how do we do this? Well, we must also have a good offensive strategy.

Offense:  Who doesn’t like to watch a thunderous dunk over someone, a lighting quick guard penetrate for a sweet layup, or a sharp shooting marksman from 3 point?!  There are many offensive threats in basketball.  To be successful the offense must attack, and do it well.  They cannot be timid or lukewarm about it; but instead, they must be aggressive, and have perseverance when the defense is hard to attack.

Like a high caliber team, the believer has many offensive threats as well.  One of them is the power of prayer, and the fact that we have a direct relationship to God through prayer.  Knowing our need for God and seeking him daily will strengthen our faith and give us an unshakable confidence (Prov 3:26, 14:26).  We also have the razor sharp sword of the Spirit, God’s authoritative word.  God’s word is breathed out for us to enjoy (2 Tim 3:16), to guide us, to take root in, to instill confidence in us, to humble us, to give us perseverance in tough times, and to give us hope.  A good offense also needs to be surrounded by a body of believers, a team (Heb 10:24-25).

Team:  This leads me to the next exciting thing to watch during March Madness.  Watching a team work together, firing on all cylinders is fun to watch!  A good team works in unison with each other and has the same objective.  They aren’t selfish with the ball, but look to one another to score and help each other.  They are vested in each other, and know they need each other to win.

This is the same when walking with the Lord.  We are called to be surrounded by a body of believers (Acts 2:42-47).  In doing this we can spur one another on, help pray for one another, and fight the enemy together.  There is strength in numbers.  Living in community allows the believer to not isolate themselves, but be selfless and serve the body where it’s needed, doing their part.  Every good team has a coach, a model to follow.  There is no better teacher we have than Jesus.  He gave us the example of how to live and how to serve (Mark 10:45, Ro 12:9-21).  So, we are called to care for each other, much like a basketball team cares and watches out for one another.  Oh, and one other thing; our Coach and Teacher, Jesus, is undefeated and will stay that way!

Upsets:  Finally, March Madness wouldn’t be complete without the upsets. The Cinderella teams that move on round after round.  It’s exciting to watch these “David” like teams from nowhere take down the “Goliath’s” of the tourney (#thebluebloods, sorry Jon 😊).  It really is a tournament full of anticipation, buzzer beaters, and the unpredictable.

There is something else though, that in the eyes of man, was unpredictable: the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus.  This event seemed to be a win for team Satan, but on the 3rd day Christ defeated death to show Satan that God always has been, is currently, and will always be- victorious (Lam 5:19, 1 Cor 15:55).  This victory, and the plan of redemption was not from some “Cinderella team” either.  No, God in His omniscient providence knew long before what was going (and needed) to take place, so His chosen people could be brought back into a right standing with Him (Gen 1:26, 3:15, Isa 53, Acts 2:23).  Now how about that for an ultimate game winning, well executed plan?!  There are no upsets with God’s team.

So, as you get your brackets filled out, wait for the tipoff, and look forward to some exciting basketball; also keep your eyes fixed on glorifying God in all we do, and applying the Gospel in all areas of our life.  As believers, we shouldn’t just be looking for “One Shining Moment” to be a witness for Christ, but rather look for many little moments to be the light of Christ to others in our day to day walk with Jesus (Matt 5:16).

Game On!