Exorcising the Demons

In the world of sports, victory involves more than wining individual games; ultimate victory means winning the championship. At the end of a long, hard season, only one team gets to hoist the trophy; only one team has a victory parade; only one team of players gets sized for championship rings.  At the end of the day, we all want to win and be champions at whatever we do. No team wants to finish in last place; no team wants to “just miss” the playoffs; no team wants to lose a seven game series.

Everyone loves a winner.  Everyone loves a champion.  A champion is clearly superior.  A champion is a believer.  A champion is an icon. And we love our championship teams. For me, my affection will forever be with the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers.  The starting five were Julius “Dr. J.” Erving, Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney and Mark Ivoroni.  Bobby Jones was the invaluable 6th man and Billy Cunningham was the coach.  After years of near misses, Moses Malone was acquired and he promised to lead the team to the “promised land” of an NBA Championship.  And he did just that.  Just like the Children of Israel, the Philadelphia 76ers wandered in the wilderness of mediocrity and failure for too long. Moses Malone led the team where they had a desire to go, but had not been since 1967.

Championship teams on any level share commonalities. A study of championship teams such as the ’83 Sixers, the great Boston Celtic Teams of the ‘60’s and the ‘80’s, the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers, the Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers, Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine, the “Steel Curtain” Pittsburg Steelers, the great Yankee teams, Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, and so many college, high school and league teams leads us to several narrow conclusions.  One is the conclusion “that there is a fine line so thin between what separates champions from the rest one can barely prove it exists” (Michael Wilbon: “Doing What Champions Do,” The Washington Post, 6/3/93). So many events must coincide during a championship season that many have come to the realization that reaching the top is by no means the divine right of great teams, even those with a wealth of talent.

Truth be told, some victories are frustratingly elusive, while others inexplicably fall into your lap.  Some victories seem to be just within reach, and yet they are just beyond grasp. In sports parlance, victories which refuse to be won are called “monkeys on our back.” Winning after losing time and again has been equated to “exorcising the demons.” Many an athlete or team has knocked on the door of triumph only to be refused time and again.  And this is not only true in sports, it is true in life.

This is the story of the ’83 Sixers. They went to the NBA finals in 1977, 1980 and 1982 only to lose after having stellar regular seasons. They failed to live up to expectations time and again.  They did well in the regular season only to fall short in the playoffs for what seemed like an eternity of years.

And this could be your story. Continuously striving to overcome obstacles, struggling to climb a hill, or getting over the hump could be where you are and may be where you live. Winning at life may be frustratingly elusive for you.

God wants you to truly succeed in life.  With Him, getting the monkey off your back is not only possible; it is “doable.”  Only the Almighty God can exorcise demons to free you to win the “game” of life. But you won’t be able to become the champion you desire to be in your own strength.  God and God alone can assist you to reach the Promised Land.

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