By Mike Glenn
OK, I admit it. I’m not getting a lot of work done these days and no one should blame me. It’s March Madness. During these few weeks in March, 64 of the best college basketball teams meet in a grand tournament to determine the best college basketball team in the country. That means there have been days when there were eight basketball games on television on the same day! Really, how is a guy supposed to get any serious work done with eight games of temptation on the screen?
Does it get any better than that? Of course, my bracket predictions were blown to smithereens when FDU, Princeton, and Furman all pulled upsets. Of course, the unexpected upsets, the Cinderella teams no one saw coming, and the unknown player who steps into his moment of glory is what make the tournament so magical.
Interviews with the coaches are classic. I’m always amazed at how many cliches a good coach can put in a two-minute interview. “We have to play the full forty minutes.” “They just wanted the game more than we did.” “We don’t watch the scoreboard. We just want to win each play.”
And here’s the best one, “They’ve shown me all year I can trust them to make the right play.” What the coach means is that during all the games and in all the hours of practice before the tournament, the players showed the coach that they understood what the team needed to accomplish, what their role was on the team, and what was expected of them in each moment. Each time, each play in each game, the coach gained confidence in the player’s ability and rewarded that player with more travel time.
When a player gets a lot of playing time, it is because the player had earned the coach’s trust in all of those hours of practice and in all the previous games. If the player played well in those moments, the coach would give that player more moments. More trust meant more playing time.
Any time we talk about trust in the church, preachers try to convince people that they can trust God. No matter what situation you’re in, no matter how deep the hole, Jesus loves you and will come to your aid. You can always trust Him. He will never let you down. Jesus will never abandon you. You can always trust Jesus.
I’m not sure that’s the question anymore – at least not for me and my church. I think the question now is, “Can God trust us?” In all the moments before this moment, have we lived in such a way to give God the confidence that He can trust us to do the right thing at this moment? Are there things in my life that would cause God to hesitate to put me in the game? To trust me with more?
When I was in school, I was usually good enough to make the team. But I was never good enough to play. In fact, I rarely played. Do you know that guy who sits on the end of the bench in his warm-up suit and claps a lot? That was me. I was on the team, but no one really wanted to see me in a game.
It did happen, however, a few times. One of our key players would get into foul trouble. One of our stars would get hurt and while the trainers were determining if he could come back into the game, the coach would scan the bench. Inevitably, his eyes would lock on mine. I could see the disappointment on his face. The game was on the line and the only option was to put me in the game. By the time it took my coaches to finally decide to put me in the game, I wondered if they were actually thinking about playing the game with four players.
I wonder if God ever has those moments. Does He, in a tough moment of the game, scan the bench and see me sitting at the end of the bench in my warm-up suit? Does God have second thoughts about using me at the moment? Does God hesitate? Does He contemplate if the moment would be better if I wasn’t in the game at all? Have I been faithful in small moments so God will trust me in the next moment? Have I done enough small things well enough to be trusted with the bigger things of the kingdom? Have I earned more playing time? Do I deserve to be in the game? Can God trust me enough to put me in?
In a moment when the kingdom of God is being assaulted, will God put me, will He put you, in the fight? Can He trust us with this challenge? I’m not so sure the hard question for the church is whether or not we can trust God, but whether or not God can trust us.
How sad it will be to find out in eternity that God wanted to do so much more but He couldn't trust us at the moment. We never grew to the point where He could trust us with the challenge.
So, the next time you’re watching a game and the coach points to a substitute player, let it remind you that God is looking for good players to put on the court. Would He point to you? Would He call me? Can He trust us? Is there any reason He would hesitate?
That’s the hard question before the church right now. Can God trust us? Well, how would you answer? Have you earned God’s confidence to be trusted with the challenges and opportunities that face the church right now?
I believe God can do more in our world. I believe God wants to do more in our world. The only thing He’s waiting for is for us to prove to Him that we’re ready to be trusted.
Nice analogy, but life isn’t a basketball game. Of course I want to be fully fit and perfectly skilled to serve God in every opportunity I get. Yet, many have been the moments when it’s been apparent that the outcome achieved has been well beyond how well I’ve used my own skills. And many times the outcome has been so different from expected, yet clearly so perfect, that the hand of God is the only explanation. Give God your best: then let God lead.
I firmly believe that pastors as leaders are leading the flock by example. What the pastor DOES and where the pastor GOES, the sheep will follow as they have. Something has to change from the top down. Public confession, truth-telling, repentance have to start from the top and it is urgently needed. It has to get specific. You guys know what I’m talking about. Loving your neighbor starts with walking in truth and purity and integrity and helping the sheep understand exactly where they have been led and why. Perhaps the question of trust is whether the sheep can trust the pastors, the majority of whom are porn users and haven’t told the sheep the depth and breadth of this issue. Leaders lead. Can we trust where they are leading us?