Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
The FIBA basketball glossary defines an assist as a pass to a teammate that directly leads to a score by a field goal (a basket scored on any shot). When I was in High School and college, Duke University had a guard named Bobby Hurley who would break the all-time NCAA record for assists with 1076 in 140 games (sports-reference.com). That means an average of almost eight times per game, he gave up the ball to a teammate whose three-point shots, slam dunks, or other baskets made the crowds stand up and cheer. While knowledgeable enthusiasts of the game appreciate the importance of the “assist man,” the average fan may miss the vital contribution of the one making that assist. But the very concept suggests unselfishness and one with a team mentality. For them, satisfaction and enjoyment comes in a well-timed, well-placed contribution that allows others to get recognition and praise.
Scripture places a great premium on the person who assists others. Our first thought may be financially. Paul tells the Ephesian elders that he had taken care of his own financial needs (and of those with him) while doing missionary work, recalling words of Jesus not recorded in the gospels that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In the matter of “giving and receiving” (Phil. 4:15), Paul encouraged a mindset that applied to more than just monetary things. It was not a mind which sought “after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (2:21). It was a “humility of mind” that could “regard one another as more important than” themselves, that could “look out” not merely for their “own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (2:3-4). It is the Christ-like heart that chooses to “please his neighbor for his good, to his edification” (Rom. 15:1-3); cf. 1 Cor. 10:24,33). Oh, to say with Paul, “So then we pursue the things that make for peace and the building up of one another” (Rom. 14:19).
Would you like to be the assist-leader in your home, in your congregation, and in your community? Look for ways to put others in the spotlight for their efforts and kindness. That may mean reorienting how you see life, looking to give glory and not needing to have it. What a righteous revolution would occur when our focus would be on how to make others look good, helping others to be appreciated and recognized, and setting others up for praise and admiration. It will in no way hinder us from receiving the highest accolade of all, given by the most important witness–the One who sees all with perfect perspective (Ecc. 12:14). A “well done” from Him has eternal implications (Mat. 25:21,23). What more do we need than that?!
Grambling State’s Shakyla Hill pulled off a rare feat in basketball last night, achieving a “quadruple double” (meaning at least ten of four statistical categories–points, steals, rebounds, blocks, and/or assists). It was the first time a woman had done that in Division One in a quarter century and only the fourth all-time. There have only been five official quadruple doubles in NBA History. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t happen much. How does it happen? Of course, there are innate gifts like speed, size, and ability, but there surely had to be tenacious effort, too.
In keeping our resolutions, there must be tenacity. We should ask ourselves every day, “How badly do I want to achieve this goal?” The New Testament word for that is perseverance, a word found 22 times there (The Greek word ὑπομονή is found 32 times, also translated “patient” and “endurance” a few times). It means, “The capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty” (BDAG, 1039). Sometimes, it seems effortless to conquer a matter. Other times, it can feel almost impossible. Factoring in God (as we mentioned in part two), we can have confidence that He can strengthen us to hold out and bear up whatever the challenge. Scripture tells us the outcome of perseverance:
- Bearing fruit (Luke 8:15).
- Eternal life (Rom. 2:7).
- Proven character (Rom. 5:3-4).
- Successful waiting (Rom. 8:25).
- Hope (Rom. 15:4).
- Joyously giving thanks (Col. 1:11).
- Being a man or woman of God (1 Tim. 6:1).
- Receiving what is promised (Heb. 10:36).
- Running the Christian race (Heb. 12:1).
- Being perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (Jas. 1:3-4).
- Seeing the good outcomes of the Lord (Jas. 5:11).
- Useful and fruitful (cf. 2 Pet. 1:6-8).
- Not growing weary (Rev. 2:3).
- Greater deeds (Rev. 2:19).
- A blessing in death (Rev. 14:12-13).
Now, apply this to your resolutions for 2018. There may be missteps along the way, a temporary loss of self-discipline, a sin or mistake, or a poor judgment. No matter! Resolve to hold out and bear up, no matter how hard the task. You will be glad you did, and you will find it rewarding.
No, I have not gone geographically goofy!
It’ll take more than a sack lunch to go from Florida to southern Asia, but because some pet owners have deposited their no-longer-wanted pythons into the Everglade Swamp there have arisen some interesting ecological dilemmas. The most spectacular one I have seen had pictorial documentation to prove itself. There, in the black and white of the newspaper, was a Burmese python that had burst in its attempt to swallow…an alligator!
What about you? Do you have big goals and dreams? Where do you see yourself this time next year? By retirement time? In eternity? What tangible things are you “biting off” to make those goals reality? Do you have soul-winning and other spiritual goals? Would you like to be a “lighthouse Christian” whose example motivates many to be like Jesus?
How big are you thinking? How big can you think?
Remember that Paul included Christ in the equation (Phil. 4:13), so he was ready to take on the biggest challenges. He evangelized the then-known world (Col. 1:23). He stood before the leaders of the greatest nation on earth, men like Festus, Felix, Agrippa, and ultimately Caesar, and he preached Jesus to them (Acts 24-28; Phil. 4:22; Luke 21:12). He traveled perilous seas, enduring multiple harsh treatment (see 2 Cor. 11), and credible history says he was beheaded for his Lord. Paul, through God’s strength, felt he could change the world with Christ’s saving grace. Even though his wonderful ambition put him in the same ultimate position of that dislocated constrictor, what a memorable way to go. Unlike the snake’s, Paul’s efforts yielded everlasting benefits.
What are you ready to do for Christ? How far are you willing to go? What have you done to get started?
Maybe we shouldn’t apply the cliche, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” to Christian aspirations. In fact, chomp away!