Applying champion life lessons learned from the game of sports.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Where Will You Play?...On the Perimeter or Down In The Paint?

Recently I was having lunch with a pastor friend of mine; Pastor Brian.  He made a great reference to how the devil really turns up the attack against us when we are on the verge of doing something really impactful for the kingdom of God and likened it to defense in a basketball game.  He inspired me to write this blog.

I love this time of year in college basketball.  Teams know that every win is important toward making it into their respective tournament.  They really increase their level of effort and take their game to a new heights.  This is especially true of those teams that know they're close to "being on the bubble" of getting in or being left out.   One area you can clearly see the increase in the effort and level of the game is on defense.  Teams know they must limit the number of "good looks" their opponents get and they know the high percentage scoring shots come mostly from within the paint vs. those that are taken from the perimeter and three-point range. 

When the ball is out on the perimeter you'll usually find a one-on-one coverage on the person with the ball.  Defense may be a little lose, not right on the person with the ball and if a shot is taken you'll see it somewhat contested and normally the defender is careful not to foul.  However, the defensive mindset and intensity changes once the ball is passed to a player that is in the paint, the area of high percentage scoring shots.  Once the ball is inside, you see defenses immediately collapse and the person with the ball is often double-teamed and played very tight.  If a shot is taken from inside the paint the shooter is often fouled in the attempt with the hope that it will prevent a score.  The defensive team is giving everything they can to prevent the opponent from threatening their chance of a victory by succeeding on a high scoring percentage shot attempt. 

The offensive team is a real and prominent threat to the team on defense at this point.  The defensive team will do everything in its power to prevent the threat of a loss, even to the point of committing a foul.  The rationale: if they foul and prevent the 2 points from being scored, they have a better chance that the shooter will only make 1 of the 2 free throws he or she has been awarded.  When the ball gets inside the paint, the defense becomes unrelenting, ruthless.

Every day of our life there is a game just like this going on around us.  A game where teams from the Kingdoms of Light and Darkness are playing for the win [OF US].  Unlike a basketball game, we can't watch it and the game clock never reads "0"; it goes on without end.  The devil, captain of the kingdom of darkness team, wants to keep people as far away from God as he can; he and his team are always on the defense.

God, captain of the Kingdom of Light Team, uses us, to influence and help draw those that the devil and his team are trying to keep from God, to God.  When our relationship with God is weak i.e. we are not reading the Bible and spending time in prayer, we are like the person with the ball on the perimeter.  We aren't much of a threat to the devil or his team so he lightly guards us.  He just brings a little trouble now in then our way to contest us and make us aware that he's there ready to turn up the defense if he needs to.

However, when our relationship with God is strong, we are spending time in fellowship, the Bible and in prayer, that's when we are taking the ball down into the paint.  We are on the verge of a high percentage scoring opportunity to impact someones life for God.  We are a threat to the other team and as a result, that is the time the devil and his team really seem to turn up the defense against us.  Seems like a lot of things in life go wrong and start to unravel.  We need to keep pressing toward the goal, take the shot and not be afraid of being fouled.  God promises us it is safe with Him, He promises to be our refuge, our protector, our shield:  2 Samuel 22:3 "my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation.  He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior".  2 Samuel 22:31 "As for God, His way (his offense) is perfect; the Lords word is flawless ; he shields all who take refuge in Him".  Psalm 18:2 "The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge..." 

With an awareness of God and His power and safety within Him referenced above, we can be on the offensive and we can play the entire game.  We don't have to be on the sidelines or the bench waiting our turn to play.  We can take confidence in the promises and characteristics of God and take the ball in the paint and help our team win against the team from the kingdom of darkness.  Ultimately that team is going to lose:  Deuteronomy 33:27 "The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies (kingdom of darkness) before you saying, 'Destroy Them'!" 

There are too many people involved in this game that are "on the bubble" of getting in or being left out when it comes to eternity for us to not be on the offensive.  Where do you want to play:  On the perimeter and not be much of a threat or down in the paint, going for the high percentage shot and defeating the team that is against us day in and day out?  Take the Ball Down Low and Score!