I know many people don’t get excited about the NBA Playoffs. Some people don’t even like Basketball. Some just follow it, perhaps because “someone in the house does.” But part of me also has to ask: How can you live in North Carolina and not like Basketball? If not the Pro Game, at least college and ACC? Anyway, that is a subject for a different day :)
I do enjoy the NBA and now that May is near, that means the Playoffs begin. By now, the marginal and complacent teams will miss contending. They are already making plans for next year, in the hopes of being a contender. In a nutshell, they will be watching and not playing; spectating not participating.
There is an excitement and an energy for the teams who played well enough, practiced hard enough, and executed during the “regular season.” Some barely made it, others positioned themselves early to get high seeds. This time of year, cities like Boston, Chicago, Miami, and Oklahoma City are charged up, electrified, and raring to go. Rightfully so, they should be. It would be ridiculous if they weren’t. But the interesting thing is, energy and electricity does not win the NBA Championship. In fact, a few of the most electric and energetic teams will not even be in the playoffs, and a few will go home throughout the playoffs.
So then, the questions default to these: What does win? What does it require?
Practice. Passion. Execution. Improvement. Teamwork. Overcoming adversity. Finishing Strong.
Those are just some of the things that whoever wins the championship, will have demonstrated. The list is certainly more extensive than that. You know, in my years I have seen teams that always come out in the 1st Quarter strong. They can contend and play well early. However, as the game wears on, for various reasons they slip. Occasionally that is a steep slope – other times it is gradual. But my point is: they don’t finish well. The early energy, excitement, high five’s, and adrenaline has not carried through.
Now, let’s take it from merely a sport, basketball, to what God is accomplishing in His world and through His Church.
God desires that we finish strong. It’s as if He is telling us, as the Coach, that we must not focus on what happened in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Quarters. The turnover, the missed shot, the bad pass, or the technical foul – is all water under the bridge. Maybe ours is a missed opportunity, the sting of a failed relationship, lack of faith, or a contrite heart. God is saying: “You have to move on from that to this moment. You have to allow Me to have the past so that you can do your best in the rest of the time that is left. Finish strong! Get your heart and passion rightly aligned! Stay in My strength and listen to Me!” This is what I hear God saying. And the great assurance is this: We, as His sons and daughters, win because He has already won!
There is no one who doesn’t get excited about energy. It is encouraging and contagious. For the life of the church, I submit it is imperative and something we must ensure is a part of the atmosphere. After all, who wants to be a part of a deflated body or a complacent group of people in any type of setting? That is almost like succumbing to defeat and hopelessness. We are to be excited about God’s vision and plan for this world – a vision and plan He is working out today, and the ultimate plan that will occur on that day He has appointed.
Today, we are on His team. The winning team. He has this – it is all wrapped up. But we need more than energy and excitement – we need His passion, urgency, empowerment, heart. That is how we can finish strong and be “about His business” in this world. This coming weekend, as we prepare to come and worship God, celebrate His presence, love, and grace in our lives, and receive His teaching and coaching – let us be in prayer for how we may (together and in our own lives) fulfill His gameplan more effectively. May our prayers be real intimate connection with Him, through His Holy Spirit, so that we may listen and receive His direction and guidance. And as we come Sunday, may we not only be charged up and energized – but also have a deep, penetrating passion to finish strong for Him.
May the joy of the Lord be our strength!
By the way: Go Celtics