I’m a college basketball fan and the national championship game was tonight and I didn’t watch a bit of it. I have no sanctified reason for doing so other than I’m a Carolina fan and I couldn’t stomach watching Duke in title game (especially since they won). That said, I got to thinking about our church, the Christian life in general, and some of the things we’ve been talking about regarding mission.
There are 68 teams that get to play in the NCAA Tournament and I guarantee you none of the head coaches tell their players before the tournament starts that their goal is to just win a game, or make it to the sweet sixteen. As a former NFL player and coach, Herm Edwards, once said in a press conference, “YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!” And in the NCAA Tournament, you play so that you can play on the first Monday night in April and win the NCAA Championship. Sure, you might be satisfied with less, but you don’t go into the tournament wanting anything less.
Sadly, I get the sense many Christians in many churches live out their lives not just satisfied with less, but not desiring all that Christ as Lord has commanded. He has commissioned His church to be disciples who make disciples, and yet all too often we are content with the status quo. We all too often want a painless kind of discipleship which promises much but demands little, a kind of discipleship where our own Christianity and that of the church we worship in suits our preferences. In short, we are content to win a game, maybe two, but we aren’t prepared to make the kind of commitment it’s going to take to really fulfill our mission… to win the championship.
“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win,” writes Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:26. As Christians we ought to live the Christian life in a manner resembling the One for whom we are named: Jesus Christ. He was always about the mission for which His Father sent Him. Whatever advanced the mission is what He did, whether it was healing the sick, raising the dead, excoriating the Pharisees for their self-righteous hypocrisy, or calling His own disciples on the carpet for arguing over who would be the greatest.
Whoever wants to be first must be last. The implication being — to stretch the NCAA Tournament analogy probably further than it merits — that we must do all it takes to to win the title. And that takes spiritual disciplines, love for God and one another, an ever-increasing realization of the grace God has shown us through His Son, and an incessant compulsion to do what His apostles did when they were empowered and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. They proclaimed Him.
Many of us get frustrated by what we will is a stagnant church, a church not growing, a church stuck in neutral, when often times the answer to such frustrations is getting out of your own way… getting out of your comfort zone by being intentionally evangelistic. Not merely inviting people to church, but proclaiming to people a Savior.
That’s the kind of Christianity that wins the title. That’s the kind of living it takes to fulfill the mission Jesus has given us. And isn’t He worth that kind of selfless, full-self living? He who gave His life for ours is worth our living all of our lives for Him. Run the race to win, beloved, and the trophy you’ll receive in the end in Your Father in heaven saying, “This is My beloved son (or daughter), in whom I am well pleased.”