How do you win a basketball game?
No, really. Go ahead and think of the answer in your mind.
How did you phrase it? Perhaps you thought "score more points than the other team" or "make more baskets than the other guys"
And, of course, you would be right. To win a basketball game, be it one-on-one, three-on-three, or classic five-man, you or your team must score more points. Now, stay with me here: to score more points you must put the basketball through the basketball hoop more times than the other players. The trouble is, how do you put it through the hoop? How do you get close enough when there are other players blocking your path? What is the best way to accomplish this task?
These latter questions open up the can of worms which ultimately makes basketball interesting to watch and play. Zone vs man-to-man defense, a three-man weave, three-point shooting, setting picks, running the baseline, alley-oops—these are the peripheral strategies that make up 90% of the game. But, again I ask "How do you win a basketball game?" and I'll answer, "By putting the ball through the hoop."
I have played a lot of pick-up basketball in my lifetime. I started out extremely poor. Over the years, however, as I've mellowed out a bit my game has improved. Throughout my lay tenure I have seen guys like me who are running around spastically waving their arms, men who never quite learned what "carrying" means, some who figured out how to throw the ball up without barely lifting their arms, and everything in between. All of them had the same goal though, to put the basketball through the hoop.
What does this have to do with anything of consequence in life?
You see, I found I began getting frustrated with the guys who used two hands underneath the ball when shooting, shot ridiculously far-out three-pointers, and took disgusting no-look hook shots. They weren't "playing the game right" And the most frustrating part is they would often WIN! Where I was attempting to make plays, increase my skill, have a good battle on the court, and be aware of fouls that would be called in a reffed game—they were only worried about PUTTING THE BASKETBALL THROUGH THE HOOP! How annoying!
In Jesus' farewell address to the disciples He said simply
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15 NASB
Notice though, Jesus didn't say
"If you love Me, smile while doing your spouse's dishes." or
"If you love Me, enjoy confronting your friend." But,
"If you love Me, obey my commandments."
There are 31-50 commandments of Jesus, depending how you parse it out. These to-dos are mostly expansions and clarifications on Old Testament principles and Laws, with additional statues for the new mission He has given His followers, and how we shall live in His New Kingdom (but, the new way of living starts now). Again, though I remind you that Jesus didn't say you would like it.
My wife and I are very good with money. But, what I actually mean is that my wife and I have very good ideals for our money. We have a percentage that is supposed to go into the emergency fund each month, 10% to be given to the church, a number God gave us to send to a missionary, a limited amount of restaurant money, and other such numbers which really make us feel like we are stewarding God's resources and securing our future. But, the trouble is other things—like household improvements perhaps—seem a lot more important than getting the emergency fund on par, eating out is much more convenient than cooking and cleaning, and remembering to write the check to New Journey Community Church is a lot harder than you think it would be for the guy who is here every day!
Here's where the rubber meets the road in this devotional thought.
Yes, that's right. Automatic withdrawal of funds.
You see, because I do care about fulfilling God's call and our financial plan I want to make a pre-meditated decision that will force the rest of my life to conform, regardless of my emotions surrounding it. It doesn't matter how I feel, it matters that I am doing the right thing. Putting the basketball through the hoop wins games.
I realize Jesus talks about the attitude of the heart and Paul calls us to be cheerful givers, so I don't want to dismiss an important work God is calling you to experience through the Holy Spirit that way. But, I believe God would be best honored if we did both: followed His commandments, however we can get them done in our lives and letting Him re-orient our hearts to actually like it!
So, what commands are you struggling with right now, and how can you put the ball through the hoop—even if it is an akward, left-handed hook shot?
Do you get the picture?
So many of us think that we can't begin following Christ's commands because we don't yet "want to" in our hearts. But, I think some of us might be willing to say "I want to want to"! And that is what this is about. Millions of believers could be sharing their faith, signing up to volunteer, or applying for ministry classes if they would just figure out a way to make it happen. What I know is that I want Jesus' team to win, and if you're on my team I sure hope you'll use your extended-NBA-three-point shot, even if it looks a little silly.
What do you think?