"Play like you want to win, not like you don't want to lose." Words my basketball coach said to me over 20 years ago and a statement I shared with my teams less than 10 years ago. If you've ever been involved with sports, you know there is a difference between trying to win and trying not to lose. As a team when we were playing to win, we were aggressive, confident and not afraid to make a mistake, but just the opposite took place when we played like we didn't want to lose. It was then we became tentative, fearful and unwilling to take a risk.
Friends, recently I've found myself thinking about how this statement is related to our faith. Now, first of all faith is much more important than any sport and we really only get one game. We're really not striving for a victory, but we should be focused on getting God the glory. We're not competing with a physical opponent, but we have a spiritual one! So in that sense will you join me as we think about this a bit more?
Let me begin with a question - "Are you living your faith like you want to win or are you "playing" like you don't want to lose? Take some time and think about that. Is there something God is calling you to do? Is there an area in your life He's asking you to surrender? Is He calling you out of your comfort zone? I don't know, but God does.
Friend, it can be easy to say we have faith, but the challenge comes in living it! And living it means putting our beliefs to action. James 2:26 tells us, "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead." Our walk must match our talk...if we say we believe, we need to live lives that prove it.
Our pastor has been preaching through Philippians and we've spent some time talking about running the race and pressing on towards the goal for the upward call of Christ. (Philippians 3:14) Friend, if you've accepted Jesus as your Savior you are running a race for Him and with Him. The question is are you running to win or just to run? Are you striving and straining or just going through the motions? There is a difference!
These lessons from Philippians and quotes from my basketball days are intersecting and I see some connections. What if I approached walking in faith with the same dedication, discipline and diligence I put forth as an athlete?
Maybe basketball was never your thing, but think about something you devoted yourself to and ask yourself if you're that intense and intentional about your faith?
As I think about these questions, I find myself reflecting on my basketball days and thinking about the athlete I tried to be - one who was willing to work hard, made sacrifices, persevered through trials, focused on fundamentals, was a team player and played to win. I loved the game and my dedication and passion proved it.
I say I love the Lord and I long to leave a legacy of faith, so what are some lessons I can learn? I must be devoted to my God, keep my faith a priority, work hard, focus on and continually work on the fundamentals (Bible reading, prayer, memorization), fellowship with and encourage my teammates and strive to do my best. A few verses come to mind -
Deuteronomy 6:5 - "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength."
Colossians 3:17 - "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."
James 1:2-3 - "Count it all joy my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."
James 4:8a - "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."
1 Thessalonians 5:11 - "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing."
Matthew 5:16 - "In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
Friend, if you and I were to live out these verses daily we'd be "playing" to win instead of living life like we are afraid to lose. Walking in faith isn't easy, God will ask us to do hard things and may lead us to scary places, but He's already won the victory! If you want to join Him on the medal stand, get out there and play (or walk in faith) like you want to win!!
Just so you know...this little pep talk was just as much for me as it is for you! Thank you for joining me in this journey and encouraging me as I "play to win"!! I'm grateful to be on God's Team with YOU!!