You Just Gotta Believe!

The Philadelphia Eagles just came back from the dead and made the playoffs, and in so doing they showed us how to participate in our own resurrection (And by the way, Saint Nick lives!)

At one point in this post-Super Bowl, celebration season, the Philadelphia Eagles were a woeful 4-6. They had just lost to the New Orleans Saints 48 -7 and with that loss all expectation for the playoffs was taken away; the season was essentially and technically over. To add insult to injury, our star QB, Carson Wentz, bruised his back and a slew of other injuries ensued; painfully, the Eagles likelihood of making the playoffs went from bad to worse. Faithful Philly fans everywhere thought that the Eagles chances of getting into the Playoffs and defending their crown were slim to none. Or so it seemed.  Then it all turned around.

After losing to the Cowboys 29 – 23 in overtime, the Eagles played their best football of the season and finished on a three game winning streak. After being dead in the water, the Eagles blanked the Redskins 24-0 on the last day of the season and won this must win game on the road to finish 9 -7, earning a Wild Card entry into the playoffs. The Eagles survived mistakes and heartbrakes, and are a living testimony of how to overcome all kinds of adversity.

But to actually get into the playoffs, Philly needed help. And help (from Heaven?) came in the form of the Chicago Bears’ No. 1 Defense.  For the Eagles to make the playoffs this season the Minnesota Vikings had to lose and the Bears had to win. So what happened? The Vikings lost at home to those same Bears 24 – 10. Whew! 

Christianity teaches that death is not final. Not physically or spiritually. The central and cardinal doctrine of Christianity affirms that God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day. Without the resurrection, the apostle Paul declared, Christian preaching and belief are pointless and meaningless. Because of the resurrection of Christ, we too can experience resurrections. We too can get help from Heaven to turn death into life.

Your situation may seem dead, your marriage may stink the stench of death, your children may have disappeared and departed from you, your finances may have suffered a fatal blow, and even your future may seem listless and lifeless.  But there is always hope. Always.

The Eagles making the playoffs this season just goes to show that sports teach the hope of resurrection. Resurrection is help from above descending live a dove to bring life and love. And even though we may feel or even be dead, we must participate in our own resurrection, because help only comes when we have hope. In games and seasons when it seems as if all hope is lost, teams can speak life and determine they are not facing a dead end, and we can too. It’s not just about being positive; it’s a firm faith and a battleax belief that our lot in life is to overcome every dip and every drop that we may descend into.

The Eagles making the playoffs just goes to prove that it’s not over until it’s over. The Eagles just proved to us once again that all things are possible to those who believe. So be encouraged. It’s not over. On this New Year’s Eve, it’s just beginning.   

JR Smith: How To Lose Game 1 of the NBA Finals

JR-Smith

What can you say? What IS there to say?  After a mistake or a mental lapse or a complete meltdown, what should be said? Sometimes, saying nothing is the right thing to say. Because there is nothing that JR Smith can say to excuse his behavior. The more he tried to explain, the worse it got. I saw the game. I saw Smith’s mouth form the words, “I thought we were ahead” to LeBron. And so did millions of other people. So no matter how you slice it, it was a mistake beyond words.

Smith dribbled the ball out to half-court, clearly thinking that the Cavs had the lead. By the time he realized that the game was tied it was too late. LeBron James was furious with his Cleveland Cavaliers teammate for dribbling out the clock and clearly not knowing the score at the end of regulation.

The game went into overtime and instead of LeBron James finishing an all-time great NBA Finals performance by stealing a win on the road, the Warriors dominated the extra period to hold home court.

Yes, we’ve all made fun of JR Smith dribbling out the game with 4.7 still left on the clock in regulation. Yes LeBron was furious, and for good reason. And yes the Cavaliers could have stolen Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals from the Golden State Warriors. But noooooo — JR Smith didn’t have the awareness needed at a critical juncture and now he’ll have find a way to atone for his sin.  And this is where theology comes in. Only God can truly atone, because atonement is a job for God. We just have to trust Him to do it His way.

Yes we’ve been hard on Smith. Yes it was a boneheaded play. And yes the Cavs blew a golden opportunity. Ever been there? We all have.  That’s the lesson that sports teaches. Our failures don’t have to be final. Our foolhardiness does not have to define us. It only does if we let it.

A Wonderful Way To Win and A Woeful Way To Lose

ANN ARBOR, MI - OCTOBER 17: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts on the sidlines during the second quarter of the college football game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-23. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MI – OCTOBER 17: Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines reacts on the sidlines at the end of the game against the Michigan State Spartans at Michigan Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 27-23 after recovering a fumbled punt snap. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Wow. What a game. What a way to win and what a way to lose. Michigan had the game won. And Michigan State had the game in the loss column. For Michigan State, it was a wonderful way to win an away game at your arch-rivals expense. And for Michigan — well, let’s just say that this is yet another opportunity to overcome adversity.

But talk about a heartbreaker. Talk about a tearjerker. Talk about a crazy way to lose and a crazier way to win. Just 10 seconds away from the biggest bang of his young college career, Jim Harbaugh saw his team fumble away a wonderful win. The “Harbaugh Effect” was in full force for 59 minutes and 50 seconds. But those last 10 seconds of the game saw something only legends are made of. The Harbaugh force fizzled and the sensational sizzle somehow turned to drizzle and someway dissolved the wonderful win away.

The victory party at the Big House had to be canceled at the last minute. Or, worse yet, the last second. Michigan had the game. They HAD it. The Michigan punter will need a few friends and fewer sharp objects after fumbling the last snap and in effect fumbling away the game. Michigan had the game won and it just slipped through their hands. Just like that. Because Yogi said, “It’s not over until it’s over.”

And so what can we learn? We can learn this: don’t let a game slip through your hands. Don’t play not to lose. Play to win. Fear and worry and panic and dread have no place in the winner’s circle. Ten seconds till the win? No way Michigan loses that game. No way. Yet they lost, and now they will have to figure out a way to come back and fight back and take back what was stolen from them.

Because this was not just a loss, it was yet another lesson on why we all hate to lose.

No Pain, No Gain

no pain

No pain, no gain.  No prayer, no deliverance. No fasting, no victory. No repentance, no redemption.  No cross, no crown.

Every serious athlete knows that the victory is not won randomly, haphazardly, or unsystematically. Victory is a planned, methodical exercise.  It is premeditated, pre-ordained and pre-determined.  And it comes at great cost, and at great price. Yes there are the fluke wins, the one-and-done dark horses and the “from out of no-where unheard ofs,” but these are far and few between and even these victories are won at great price. The constant champion knows that to get on top is one thing, but staying on top is something else.

According to that ever-so trustworthy source, Wikipedia, The slogan, “No pain, no gain” (or “No gain without pain”) is an exercise motto that promises greater value rewards for the price of hard and even painful work. Under this conception, competitive professionals such as athletes and artists are required to endure pain and pressure to achieve professional excellence.  It came into prominence after 1982 when actress Jane Fonda began to produce a series of aerobic workout videos. In these videos, Fonda would use “No pain, no gain” and “Feel the burn” as catchphrases for the concept of working out past the point of experiencing muscle aches.

No pain, no gain.  The premise here is that there are no free lunches. Everything costs something. And so it is with life.  While it is true that if you can believe it, you can achieve it, believing is not passive, it is active.  It involves placing trust. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

No pain, no gain.  The achievers, over-comers and champions know that they have to put the time in.  We used to sing this song in church: “Put your time in; Payday’s comin’ after while.”  And that’s all we sang. That’s it. Those 8 words comprised a song we would sing half the night.  But the truth of the song lasted longer than we could sing the song itself.

Put your time in. Love. Give. Forgive. Smile. Be kind. Overcome evil with good. It may be painful to love your enemy, and to forgive someone who wronged you but won’t apologize, but it’s time well spent. 

Put your time in; payday’s comin’ after while.