Bible Gateway, Faith, parenting

Off the Bench

Do you mind if I brag for a few minutes?

I’m sure you know that I love my kids. They are all amazing: smart, talented, kind, unique. They each have their own individual passions and strengths. They all love God, even if they express it in their own unique ways. They all bless me more than I can even express.

But this last week, I have simply been busting at the seams with pride over my oldest.

I often call Blake my gentle giant. He is very even-keeled, rarely getting bent out of shape. He would never hurt anyone. In fact, he delights in friending those society might consider outcasts. He has this dry sense of humor that leaves you laughing for days.

By far, the most common remark I hear, however, is, “How did that happen?” You see, Blake is 15 years old and stands an amazing 6’3” tall, towering over his family, friends, and most adults. To really grasp what an anomaly he is, you have to understand that I am a giant in my family…at 5’4”. The other females in my family range from 4’10” to 5’1”. My dad did manage to hit 6’, but my brother is about 5’10”. Blake stands out in our family…literally.

And what does a 6’3” teenager love? Basketball.

Blake is passionate about basketball. He studies videos. He reads how to perfect his game. He shoots baskets for hours. It is rare to find him without a basketball in his hand.

Two years ago, Blake barely made the seventh grade team at school. He only suited up for half of the games, and most of the time he was on the bench. Last year, he didn’t see much more playing time. It didn’t help that his arm was broken for the first half of the season.

This year, however, Blake has secured a place in the starting line-up. He has improved so much, and I see him improving with each game. Last night he scored 10 of the teams 38 points, had about 6 or 7 rebounds, and really showed some intensity we had never seen from my gentle giant.

And I am one proud mom!

To see my child want something, to see him pursue his dream, to see him work hard and succeed…I can’t even express what that means. I am proud of his work ethic, of his passion. I am proud to see him succeed at something that is so important to him. I am proud of how far he has come.

As I have thought about his journey from the bench to starter, I began to think about the parallels to the Christian life. I just wanted to share a few thoughts and see what we can learn from my gentle giant.

For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. James 1:23-25

Blake has immersed himself in basketball. He reads about basketball. He dreams about basketball. He studies basketball. He researches to find ways to improve his technique. It’s not just a casual interest in basketball; it’s a deep, intense desire to learn more, to grow, to improve.

Isn’t that the key to our Christian life? In the book of James, we are told that we have to look intently into the Word; a simple glance just won’t cut it. It takes time and energy. It takes digging in deeper to find what God would have us do.

The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy tells us that we should focus on the word when we get out of bed, when we walk along the street, when we go about our every day, ordinary life (Deuteronomy 6:4-6). It should be at the forefront all the time. We should be seeking out more than the milk that an infant craves; we should be at a place of maturity where we are feasting on the deeper truths of scripture (Hebrews 5). There are so many great ways to read your Bible these days. Check out the Bible Gateway app.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22

Beyond reading and studying basketball, Blake works at it. I often find him with his jump soles on his feet, trying to build his leg muscles so he can jump higher. He goes to school early and stays late so that he can get extra time in the gym, shooting baskets and perfecting his shot. He watches his diet in an effort to feed his body with the proper nutrients.

It’s important that we read the word, look deeply into the truths given to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But, there’s more to it. We must put into practice what we read.

Just like Blake and basketball, the more we practice walking in obedience, the more we practice loving others, the more we practice hearing God’s voice, the better we become at living this Christian life.

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. Proverbs 27:6

Blake’s coach has made some suggestions on ways to improve his game. If the coach says to change something in his shot, he immediately begins to make those changes. If the coach says he needs to score more points, Blake seeks to take more shots. If coach says to be more aggressive, Blake seeks to follow through.

So many of us are too prideful to listen to those who are more mature, have more wisdom than we do. We become offended if someone suggests that we make a change in our lives. We take constructive criticism as a knock against who we are rather than an opportunity to grow and become a better person, a better Christian.

Being humble enough to accept correction, recognizing that others are trying to help us become better by offering suggestions, maintaining a teachable spirit will go a long way to making us a vessel for honor that is useful to our master.

he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:8

Over the summer, Blake took a basketball hiatus. I didn’t fully understand until he explained. Blake felt as if God was asking him to give up basketball. Can you imagine God asking you to give up something that is that important to you? That’s where Blake found himself.

Blake made the all-important decision to be obedient, to give up something of great importance to him as a step of obedience to God. In giving up basketball for a set period of time (I guess you could call it a fast), he was choosing God over his passion. He was telling God that nothing in his life was more important than He.

And I believe God has blessed that obedience. Isn’t that what he wants from all of us? Doesn’t he want to know that we will be obedient even if it is painful? Think about Abraham offering his only son, Isaac, on the altar. Isaac was the promised son, and yet Abraham trusted and loved God so much that he didn’t spare his own son! He believed that God could—and would—resurrect him from the dead. Fortunately, when God saw that Abraham was willing to be obedient, he provided a ram for a sacrifice.

Think about Jesus. Jesus was willing to be obedient, even to a humiliating, excruciating death on a cross. He was obedient because of his love for his Father…and his love for us. What a sacrificial love he showed! With all he gave for us, isn’t our obedience a small sacrifice?

Perhaps you are feeling side-lined in some area of your life. Perhaps you feel as if your relationship with God is slow, weak. Learn from my son. Pour yourself into it. Immerse yourself. Be humble enough to be taught. Be obedient.

I am certain God will bless you.


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