I’m a big sports fan. I always have been. I played sports all the way through high school and loved every second. I’ve always been a competitor and put my heart into all I did. Even now as a pastor, I put my heart into all I do and tend to be known for my passion.
The NBA playoffs are in full swing and my team since childhood, the San Antonio Spurs, are competing once again for the western conference finals. There has not been a professional sports team as successful as the San Antonio Spurs in quite some time…they have been a winning machine for nearly two decades.
So, here they are battling against one of the up and coming teams in the NBA, the Oklahoma City Thunder. I happen to pastor right outside OKC, so needless to say, I’m surrounded by Thunder fans…not a great place for a Spurs fan I might add :-). But, this series has been a battle for sure.
As I write this, the series is locked at 2-2…with game 5 in a best of 7 series happening in San Antonio on Thursday night, May 29th. It is likely that whoever wins game 5 will win the series…so, game 5 is of utmost importance to say the least. But, as this series has rolled along, I have learned a few things. I’ve always learned a lot from sports and continue to do so, even in this series between the Spurs and the Thunder. So, here are 5 quick life lessons I have picked up on so far:
1. Starting well is important, but finishing well is more important.
The Spurs jumped out to a 2-0 commanding lead, but have let the Thunder slip back in the series. The Spurs started well, but will they finish well? Just like in life…finishing well is one of the most important things you can do. As the Apostle Paul said,”I have fought the fight, I have kept the faith, I have finished the race…” All believers run the race of faith to finish well.
2. Adversity will either make you drop out or rise up!
The Thunder have risen to the occasion. They faced must win games in games 3 and 4, and have absolutely risen up in spite of being in a difficult situation. They got blown out in game 2 by 35 points, but showed up in game 3 like game 2 never happened. In life, the tough times reveal what we are made of…and we either drop out or rise up. The Spurs are now in a must win situation…will they rise up or drop out? We shall see on Thursday. As someone once said, “Life is a storm…you will bask in the sunlight one moment, or be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes.” Adversity is a great revealer of character. The Spurs may not win, but will they compete in spite of adversity. Oh how I hope they do :-). James 1:12 says, “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.”
3. When you win or lose, you should always have class.
Say what you want about the Spurs, but when they win by 35 or lose by 20, they stay the same. Their character shines through. In sports, just like in life, there will be ups and downs. Don’t make too much of the highs or the lows…just stay even…be consistent. We can all ride the wave of circumstances, but we have to remember that some days we will have victory and other days defeat and we must not let either dictate our character. We need to be classy and steady in the ups and downs of life.
4. There is a fine line between passion and arrogance.
I get it, to make it to the NBA, you have to have a certain amount of confidence…ego, if you will. BUT…arrogance and passion are not the same thing. Any one who knows me knows I am not a Russell Westbrook fan. I concede the fact that he is good…very good. He is always the most athletic player on the court, but I struggle with his responses during the game. The dancing, show boating, starring down after dunks, etc. Some people love that, but I hate it. I love passion, but hate when it bleeds into arrogance. In life, we should put our whole hearts into what we do, but we always need to remember, it’s not about us…it’s never about one individual person. We should put Jesus Christ first in our life and then others before ourselves. So, on the basketball court, if you are dominating…stay passionate, but don’t let it drift into arrogance…the same goes in life.
5. Life is full of difficult people, and how we deal with them reveals a lot about our own character.
This last point is “fan” related. Every team has fans. In this series there are Spurs fans and Thunder fans…and there are knuckleheads on both sides. All fans tend to see things one-sided. They will all say they don’t, but they do. I have watched both Spurs and Thunder fans criticize refs, coaches, players, and each other. I admit, I get too wrapped up in it all at times, just like anyone else. But…I do strive to be a generous fan. I am loyal and try not to ever make excuses for the team I cheer for (even though I slip up at times). I also try and just cheer for my team without degrading and bad mouthing the other team. I try and show respect for the other team as well. I also try and respect the fans of the other team. But, no matter how hard I try, and I fall short as well, there are always difficult people to deal with on the other side. There are the antagonizers, the agitators, the critics, the disrespectful, the hateful, the irrational, and on and on. I have learned it is best to try and take the high road with most of these people because it’s useless to try and argue with them because it never leads anywhere beneficial.
The same goes in life. There will always be people who question your motives, people who won’t listen, people who make hasty generalizations, people who are not realistic, people who say hateful things, and on and on. How we respond to difficult people reveals more about us than it does about them. As the Proverb writer says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” When dealing with difficult people, remember…don’t throw gas on the fire…just kill it with kindness. You may be kind and they still judge you or question you…it doesn’t matter, just keep being kind. That’s the best you can do with difficult people.
And guess what, at the end of the day, none of this basketball stuff really matters. The NBA playoffs is a temporal thing that does not matter eternally…but we can still learn some great life lessons from such things and I hope to always keep growing as a person, but more importantly as a Christian. So, in sports or in life, let’s keep growing to be who God wants us to be…and oh ya, “GO SPURS GO!”