How’s Your Follow Through?
In 1999 ESPN ran a biography program called Sports Century, which counted down the top 50 athletes of the 20th Century. Not much of a surprise, the athlete who clinched the top spot was none other than Michael Jordan. Air Jordan is famous for helping the Chicago Bulls claim a whopping 6 NBA championships in the 90’s. However, before winning his first title in 1991, Jordan had already cast an ominous shadow over the rest of the league.
Consider his stats before winning that first championship:
• 1-time League MVP
• 4-times NBA leading scorer
• 4-times All-NBA First Team
• 3-times All-Defense First Team
• 1-time Defensive Player of the Year
• 6 NBA All-Star Games
• 1-time All-Star Game MVP
• 2-times Slam Dunk Champion
• Rookie of the year
• 1 Olympic Gold Medal
We might look at these achievements and conclude that Michael didn’t have much room for improvement; but we’d be wrong. In his 1990-91 season, Michael decided he still had a long way to go in order to be the most effective competitor he could be; so the “breakfast club” was born. Although Jordan already devoted himself to the grueling 2-hour regimen of coach Phil Jackson each day, that year he added an additional morning practice in order to push himself to grow. He and a few of the most dedicated players would eat breakfast together before engaging in their additional punishment. The “breakfast club” paid off in huge dividends for Michael. Although he was already the best scorer in the league, this additional training helped bring him 6 NBA championships over his next 6 consecutive seasons. Jordan was already the best…yet he still saw the need for improvement.
Like Jordan, the apostle Paul might top the list as one of the greatest spiritual athletes recorded for us in the New Testament. After all, he often compared his Christian life to that of an elite competitor (1 Cor. 9:24-27). Paul was a spiritual giant who encourages us to imitate his life, because everything he did was to imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Paul’s diligence had led him to have more spiritual wisdom in his pinkie finger the most congregations combined! So as he neared the very end of his life, what task was most important in this great man’s mind? He felt the need to study the Scriptures more. Nearing the end of his last writing, Paul says to Timothy, “When you come bring the cloak which I left at Troas with Carpus, and the books, especially the parchments,” (2 Tim. 4:13). Out of anything Paul could have longed for as he awaited death, he really wanted to spend more time delving into God’s Word.
It can be so easy for us to reach plateaus in our spiritual walk. Perhaps you’re not being challenged as much by the sermons and Bible classes. Perhaps your Bible knowledge greatly surpasses those around you in your congregation. Perhaps you’re the go-to guy/gal when someone needs spiritual guidance. Whatever your current level of spiritual growth, we must never be satisfied with our current abilities. You will never reach a point in your life when you can just ‘coast,’ having surpassed the efforts of those around you. Christianity is a process of continual growth and challenges. Like Jordan and the apostle Paul, we are too are serious athletes. Just like Paul, we can serve God better tomorrow than we did today, if we’re willing to put in the extra work.