Tonight the San Antonio Spurs play the Miami Heat in the final game for the NBA Championship. The series should have finished Tuesday night. But the Spurs didn’t finish!
The Spurs were in control with a 10 point lead going into the fourth quarter. And with 28 seconds to play they were up five points. Security guards were lining the floor. Yellow tape was being stretched around the court to keep the crowd from coming onto the floor. The victory platform was ready to be rolled out on the court. In 28 seconds the Spurs would celebrate their fifth championship. But something happened on the way to the victory stand.
The expression “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” is an ironic twist on the original expression. It refers to a team that blows it! Victory seems assured, but somehow they find a way to lose.
With all due respect to a Miami Heat team that made big plays and hit big shots, San Antonio lost because they quit executing the fundamentals that brought them so close to victory. Missed free throws. Failure to block out. Missed rebounds. And defensive breakdowns.
This collapse got me to thinking about the importance of fundamentals. And how the end of that game is too often a metaphor for life. This principle applies to business. Marriage. And clearly Christianity.
Businesses sometimes fail because they quit doing the things that made them successful. Good customer service. Producing a quality product. Honoring their guarantee.
Think about marriages that end up divorce. Too often it is because one or both quit showing the love, affection, and concern that first brought them together. They quit meeting each other’s needs.
And then I think of Christians I know who have fallen away. At one time they were faithful. Following Christ. Engaging in fellowship. Growing spiritually. But something happened. And now they have quit.
I think it is getting away from the spiritual fundamentals that first brought them to Christ and helped them become spiritually successful. Daily prayer. Serious Bible study. Regular fellowship. Personal application.
The Bible speaks of a man by the name of Demas. He was a faithful Christian. A dedicated disciple. Paul called him a “fellow laborer.” But later Paul writes and said “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” We are not told what happened. Or why.
I suspect it didn’t happen all a once. I doubt that he woke up one day and said, “I quit.” Probably it was gradual. But here was a man who had spiritual victory within his grasp. But allowed the devil to defeat him.
Peter speaks of those who “escaped the pollution of the world through the knowledge of (Jesus)”, but they became “entangled” in the ways of the world and fell away. Again, folks who were winning the spiritual warfare, but end up losing!
Sadly, I have known of preachers, elders, and other Christians who lived a long life of faithfulness, but wavered at the end. They weakened. Or lost heart. Or neglected the spiritual fundamentals they once followed. Indeed they “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.”
The good news is that we don’t have to suffer a spiritual collapse. The apostle John promised that if we are “born of God” we can “overcome the world.” Then he says, “And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.” (I Jn 5:4). The word “victory” is from the Greek word nike. That’s right! We can win the spiritual battle. Overcome sin. Conquer Satan. We can, if we will just do it!
As we all come to the end of the fourth quarter of our earthly lives may we be able to echo the words of Paul “ I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman