Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12
Today is a somber day on the calendar for many sports fans: the day after the finals of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. This is the culmination of a month-long celebration of the best sporting event out there. There will be many who disagree, but no other sporting event brings out so many different responses and emotions. Three weeks ago we began to study our brackets to make predictions. Some of us used our heads, some of us used our hearts, but we all felt confident that we had every game properly analyzed and correctly picked; until the first of our legitimate contenders fell to the Cinderella teams. Which leads me to the only good thing today brings: now everybody’s bracket will be sitting in the shredder next to mine (which has been there for two weeks). But as any true college basketball fan will tell you, overcoming upsets and winning games you weren’t supposed to win are all a part of what makes this tournament so great.
Only 68 teams were selected to play in the tournament. 67 of those teams ended their seasons in defeat. Only one team emerged from this tournament victorious. And while a season full of early morning practices, team meetings, training sessions, travel, injuries, close games, blowouts, exhilarating victories and heartbreaking defeats helped to prepare these teams for the madness of March, only one team had what it took when the time came to go into the history books with the title of champion. A six month season comes down to a 40 minute game (or even just a few minutes or seconds within). Preparation meets performance, overcomes pressure, and produces prosperity.
This is what makes sports so compelling. Any of us can pass, dribble, and shoot a ball, but so very few of us will ever know what it’s like to perform on that great stage. But while that arena allows only a select few to enter, it mirrors so many of the great challenges that each of us will face over the course of our lives. Students across our country face exams and standardized tests that will determine their future educational and career paths. Young men and women search their hearts and minds to decide who they should marry. Many people today will face tough choices when it comes to job opportunities. Others will struggle with the news that they are no longer employed. Should I take the risk to pursue my dream? Should I ask her to marry me? Should I invest more of my savings in something riskier but with a higher potential reward? Should I have the surgery or go into hospice care? Many of life’s moments require us to apply prior knowledge and past experiences to make an immediate decision that will have a lifelong impact. And while sports can emulate the feelings of joy and despair, they simply do not match the intensity or the importance of fully living the lives God created us to live.
Here’s to those with busted brackets but saved souls. Here’s to those who were vanquished but not defeated. Here’s to the victors who understand where our victory was actually won and the price that was paid to claim it. May God deliver us all from our defeats and lead us to that place where we find a shining moment that will last for eternity with Him in Heaven.