I’ll have to admit, I am loving watching the NBA playoffs! It’s not only the smashing dunks and the swooshing 3-pointers and the tenacious defensive plays that thrill me. It is the “never-say-die” spirit of these competitors that has me hooked. That’s why some of these contests went the full 7 games.
Eventually, though, in those contests, one team must lose the series. That’s life. But did you know that even those who “lose” in the world’s way of thinking, can win in God’s world? It’s because of God’s grace. Amazing grace! The idea of grace is a strange one in the common way of thinking. Why should people get what they have not earned? Why should the Houston Rockets and the Washington Wizards advance to the conference finals? They shouldn’t, of course! And so also, why should God accept me and welcome me and love me? I have let Him down so many times!
If we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that most, if not all, of our days include “poor shots”, even “flagrant fouls”. The truth, of course, is that there is something wrong with each one of us. But God’s grace tells us these things do not make us “failures.” The only “failure” is the person who thinks he or she has it all together. (Take a look at Mark 2:13-17)
Yes, we were made in the very image of God, who is the essence of goodness and holiness. But in the game of life, the Referee has blown his whistle on each one of us. We have all fouled out, and even our loudest protests won’t help. Only the love of God, shown in his gift of the Son, has the power to take us off the bench and put us back in the game.
It’s purely a gift – the amazing gift of grace! And then, one of the most remarkable truths about God is, through His grace, He can take those failures and use them to bring about something wonderful in our lives and in the lives of those we touch.
But we’ve got skin in this game, too. The player who has fouled out but is still in the game is incredibly thankful! So, too, should we live grateful lives in response to God’s gift. It is then that God can use these restored lives, renewing our strength to live purposefully for Him alone!
Our high school seniors are about to move their “game” to college or work. Graduates… and all the rest of us, too: If we live full lives, we WILL fail at something. But my prayer is that we would allow God to use us well, even in those things we might consider utter failures. That’s because we serve a gracious God who “in all things… works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). We’ve fouled out, but we’re still in the game. Let’s play hard for God!
Ron Olson serves as pastor of Bowman United Methodist church.