Legendary basketball coach, John Wooden, once made the observation that sports are of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. He said, "There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior...material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are, and that is all that matters."
In watching our baseball team this summer, I've learned a lot about the game of life. In spite of their best efforts, winning hasn't come easily to them for most of the season. Heartbreaking losses, close games that got away - this has been the story time and again. But, each time, they keep on fighting. They get up when knocked down and try once more. They still smile. They still go out and play.
These young men know that life isn't all about baseball. Many have a deep faith in God and, like John Wooden pointed out, they realize that they are winners in God's eyes. I saw them living this out as they helped my church with Vacation Bible School. With a last-place slot in the division and a losing record on the season, these players put baseball aside and chose to invest in the lives of little children and our church's youth. Storing up treasures in Heaven meant more.
As I have seen this unfold, I realize that what the guys are experiencing this season is so much what life is like. Often, you feel like you spend more time struggling to stay upright, to keep in the game, than you do actually obtaining what the world deems as victory. We all go through seasons where failure appears to stare us in the face, and success is a mere wish. But how we choose to get through those times really determines who we will become.
I've had my share of these experiences, and it seems like I am always coming back around to the same choices - every moment, every day. In all circumstances, I must continually ask myself: will you stay in the game? Sometimes, the greatest triumph isn't in refusing to fall but rising from the fall. In sports as well as life, perseverance is what matters.
When life knocks us down, when the outcome seems hopeless, when victory seems to be with everyone else except us, will we make the decision to keep playing? Even more, will we strive for a greater reward than earthly accolades? Will we be on God's team? If we will, than our biggest victory has been ensured - He has already won for us! We only follow in His footsteps. We merely seek to honor Him here...even when all we want to do is quit.
As Irish running coach, Jerry Farnen once told his future Olympian, Eamon Coughlin, "Don't quit when you're beaten; fight back to an even more glorious victory, not only in competition, but also in life." Having a winning life is of far greater importance than a winning record - be it sports, in business, or in our private lives. A life placed in the Savior's hands, coupled with perseverance, will make us winners in the game of life. John Wooden was right.