This story appears in FCA Magazine’s January/February 2018.
I’ve been a football coach for 34 years, but I spent much of my years growing up very dedicated to a different sport: basketball.
I spent hours upon hours on the court—playground basketball, four-on-four half-court, shirts versus skins, winners stay on. All day, every day. Early mornings or late nights, even playing in the dark without playground lights. Hot summer days didn’t slow us down; there’d be long lines at the single water cooler between games. The cold, snowy winter days on the East Coast couldn’t stop us either; we’d bring shovels to the court, scoop off the snow and “ball out” with our frozen fingers and toes.
One time, a bunch of us even turned down an offer to be extras on the classic movie, Jaws. For us, yet another day of playing ball sounded way more attractive than running around on a beach acting scared of a fake shark! (Since none of us went on to play in the NBA, we’ve always wondered if we should have taken that Jaws offer.) But one thing was for sure — we were dedicated to what we thought was important to us at that stage of our lives: basketball!
In middle school, in the midst of my ever-growing quest to improve, I read about another guy deeply devoted to the sport. Unlike me, however, he was a superstar. As I read about Jerry Lucas, a former high school prodigy from Middletown, Ohio, who went on to star at Ohio State University, win a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics, and log an illustrious NBA career, I began to see dedication on a whole new level.
Jesus' dedication to us inspires me to dedicate my life — my everything — to Him every day.
While growing up, legend tells us Lucas spent 12 to 15 hours a day playing basketball. When most kids practice by themselves, they shoot. And then shoot some more. While Lucas did plenty of shooting, his primary basketball passion was rebounding. He was blessed with great leaping ability, an innate sense of timing and tremendous hands.
But he spent countless hours honing his craft, literally trying to miss shots from different trajectories so he could memorize how the ball caromed off the rim from all kinds of angles. By the time he reached college and then the pros, Lucas had a “sixth sense” of where the ball would go when someone released it. He became one of the greatest rebounders in NBA history, once collecting 40 rebounds in one game!
What intrigued me even more about Lucas was how he trained his gifted mind for memorization. He truly learned the “art” of memory, once famously reciting 50 pages of the Manhattan White Pages, full of names and phone numbers. When he eventually gave his life to Jesus, the Lord inspired him to use this gift for the Kingdom, and Lucas set up programs to teach youth how to memorize the entire New Testament.
While Lucas is a fantastic picture of the power of dedication, there are numerous others in God’s Word.
For example, consider the eight known writers of the New Testament books: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter and Jude. All were pretty dedicated guys, to say the least. Dedicated enough to go public with the great news of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Dedication to Jesus is costly, especially when it’s public.
All eight of these Holy Spirit-inspired writers paid a high price for their dedication.
Church history records that Matthew was speared to death. Mark was dragged to death by a horse. Luke was hanged. Paul was beheaded in prison. James was clubbed to death. Jude was crucified, and Peter was crucified upside down. The Apostle John was boiled in a cauldron of oil — and survived. He was eventually exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote the Book of Revelation. John was the “best-case scenario” for the writers of the New Testament. But God is pleased with this kind of dedication!
All of these examples are among many incredible singular demonstrations of dedication that go beyond basketball (or any sport in general) and life as we know it on earth. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, up to this very moment and on through eternity, there is our reigning champion, Jesus, who “rebounded” every missed shot by every person who has ever lived or will live. He did it by His dedication to leave heaven as God and become a man on earth, God the Son, to die on a cross for all of our sins even though we did not — and do not — deserve this forgiveness. Jesus rose from the dead, promising us life with Him forever if we trust Him as Savior and Lord, repenting from our sin.
Jesus’ dedication to us inspires me to dedicate my life — my everything — to Him every day. How about you?