3 Lessons From March Madness

We’re nearing the end of my favorite three weeks of the year–March Madness. You probably don’t even have to be a sports fan to know March Madness is the moniker for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

This year has been madnesses personified. This year’s final four are San Diego State. Florida Atlantic University. Miami, And University of Connecticut. Only UConn has been here before.

Like the apostle Paul who often used sports metaphors, there are some good spiritual lessons from this year’s tournament.

#1 The Uncertainty of Life.

Over 20 million people submitted their picks for the winners of each game. There was no perfect bracket. Last night ESPN reported 38 people out of 20 million picked the correct final four. CBS Sports said it was 6. Really? I’d like the meet those people. Maybe they have some stock tips.

What happens tomorrow, next week, or next month is at best an educated guess. Here’s what the Bible says.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. (Jas. 4:13-14)

No one knows what the future holds. Only God does. The wise man warned. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Prov. 27:1).

#2 Winners Exercise Self-discipline.

The four teams who made the final four all exercised the greatest discipline of following the coach’s game plan, playing within their abilities, and trusting their teammates.

The lower seeded teams, like FDU, or Princeton, or FAU, who upset higher seeds each played with greater self discipline than those with more talent. Purdue was taking wild shots. Indiana was complaining instead of playing. And Gonzaga looked disorganized, confused and completely fell apart.

Sports is about self discipleship. So is life. As well as Christian discipleship. This also was true in Bible times as Paul observed, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things.” So, he said, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1Cor. 9:24,27).

Self-control is identified as one of the 9 fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5 and one of the Christian virtues extolled by Peter.

Self discipline is necessary to resist the lusts of the flesh, the enticements of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 Jn. 2:15-17). It provides mental focus and emotional restraint. It governs the will. And serves as a moral governor of the conscience.

Lou Holtz was right when wrote, “Without self-discipline, success is impossible. Period.”

#3 When You’re Behind, or Counted Out, Don’t Quit.

Time and again the tournament provided improbable upsets, last second shots and come from behind victories all proving that it’s always too soon to quit. When Miami was behind 13 points (64-51) to Texas with 13 minutes to go, it seemed like the Longhorns were in control and the Hurricanes’ season was over. Yet, they came back to win 88-81.

Even if you’re the underdog, if there is still time on the clock, there’s hope for a victory. Think of Fairleigh Dickenson’s amazing upset of Purdue. A 16 seed fighting a #1 seed. It was the classic David vs Goliath match. FDU had the shortest team in the tournament and Purdue boasted a 7’4″ center. Yet, FDU fought hard, never gave up, and won on a 3 point shot with only seconds remaining.

Solomon reminds us that race is not always won by the best athlete. Or the battle won by the strongest man. Nor is the winner always the wisest, most knowledgeable or most skilled. (Eccl. 9:11).

Who thought the shepherd boy David could slay the warrior Goliath with a sling shot? Or Gideon and his 300 men could defeat a Midianite army of 135,000 well trained soldiers? Or that 12 apostles preaching Jesus on Pentecost could begin a movement that would “turn the world upside down” (Ax. 17:6)?

Jesus reminded his disciples (and us) that “With God, all things are possible” (Matt. 9:26).

Though filled with metaphors, symbols an apocalyptic references, the book of Revelation affirms that God’s cause will win. Righteousness will prevail over unrighteousness. Truth will triumph over error. And Jesus Christ will be be victorious over Satan and his minions.

Sometimes it seems like evil has the upper hand. That life is unfair. And that Christians are losing that battle. Remember this. “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world” (1 Jn. 5:4).

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58).

Since basketball hadn’t been invented yet, Paul had to use the language of the runner, but his exhortation reminds us, like those March Madness winners, to stay spiritually focused on the goal ahead.

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:13-14).

–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman


Filed under Discipleship

3 responses to “3 Lessons From March Madness

  1. Ranger

    Great use of March Madness

    I use your writing often with the youth

    This will be one

    Thank you for writing every week


  2. Pingback: Weekly Recap: March 27-31 | ThePreachersWord

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