5 Lessons from a 24-Hour Basketball MarathonFrom 8 a.m. on April 3, 2015 to 8 a.m. on April 4, I played basketball.
Twenty. Four. Hours.
Why would I do such a thing?
Because I was participating in Hoops for Hope, a 24-hour basketball marathon fundraiser whose proceeds support HOPE worldwide, the Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE, and the Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital.
I learned five valuable lessons from this process about being a disciple of Christ.
1) God Only Needs a Seed
I do not play basketball, and I am not a fundraiser.
So I prayed hard and called almost every number in my phone to ask for donations.
The going was slow. After weeks of making calls, I had only raised $600. My goal of $2,000 seemed impossibly far away.
I remember forcing myself to pray, “God, I do not believe that I will raise this money, but please help me raise this money.”
As I continued to call and pray, the money rolled in. With about two weeks left until game day, I reached $1,700.
I realized that – with $1700 under my belt – it would take no faith to reach $2,000. So I raised my goal to $2,500. Then, with a little less than a week left, I found myself at around $2,300. Once again, I realized that I would need no faith to hit my new goal. So I raised it once more to $2,750.
As God would have it, I exceeded my goal, finishing the event with $2804.
Reflecting on my experience, I am reminded of this Scripture:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches” (Matt. 13.31-32).
Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven and the people therein would be characterized by a seed that grew to dozens of times its original size. God only needs a mustard seed of faith to grow an enormous tree.
This can be seen today in the fact that nearly 2000 years later, millions of people are still following the life and teachings of a carpenter’s son from the tiny village of Nazareth, Israel.
This can be seen today in the fact that with no fundraising experience, I was able to raise $2804.
This can be seen today in the fact that because Phil Arsenault, the founder of Hoops for Hope, had a dream, well over $300,000 has been raised over seven years for HOPE worldwide and for the hospitals in Cambodia.
Can this been seen today in you? Do you give God your mustard seeds of faith to work with, or do you keep them to yourself, preventing Him from making them grow into something miraculous?
2) We Are Better Together
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” -- Eph. 4.16
In this passage, Paul describes how a healthy church grows: together.
Just as with the human body, the church functions best when each member is playing its part.
On my own, I could never give $2804. But together, with the help of around 90 individual donors, I was able to give over and above my means.
On my own, I only raised $2804. But together, we raised nearly $51,000.
On my own, I couldn’t play anything for 24 hours. But together, with the encouragement and inspiration of the other players, the wondrous work of a professional masseuse, the medical expertise of a trained sports therapist, and the contributions of countless others, I completed a basketball marathon.
Our society values independence and self-sufficiency, and at the proper times these are excellent qualities. But God’s church must be characterized by a spirit of inter-dependency.
We are better together.
3) Plans Fail for Lack of Counsel
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed” (Prov. 15.22).
Here are some tips that saved me from a world of pain:
After 24 hours of basketball, everything chafes. Smear petroleum jelly on your feet. It’s weird, but not as weird as having blisters.
Don’t bring lots of sports drinks. Gatorade will give you a little boost, and then leave you to crash. Drink water.
Don’t drink ONLY water. Bring energy bars to replenish your electrolytes and minerals. Snack on some oranges.
Bring a few changes of clothes and take a few showers. Feeling fresh is a big morale-booster.
Wear basketball shoes to protect your ankles. Sneakers are not sufficient.
Pace yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
DO NOT GO TO SLEEP.
Some of us make plans and execute them without input from spiritual people who – frankly – know better than we do. This is a sure road to failure. Yet if we take the time and the humility to ask others for advice – whether or not we like what they say – we will find that success is nearly impossible to avoid.
4) Don’t Stop
There’s a great deal to be said about pacing yourself during any kind of marathon event (i.e. you should pace yourself during any kind of marathon event). But there’s also a great deal to be said about not becoming complacent, or worse – stopping altogether.
Proverbs 1:32 warns us that “the complacency of fools will destroy them.” In other words, doing the bare minimum will hurt us spiritually.
After seemingly-endless hours of running up and down the court, I faced a related dilemma.
All I wanted to do was to take it easy. Especially difficult were the eight-minute breaks we had between halves and the 15-minute breaks we had between games. Lack of physical exertion produced stiff, cold muscles that became harder and harder to coax back to life.
As we passed midnight, it became excruciating to leave the bench and return to the court. My legs screamed as I pushed them to run. Every rational thought told me to stop. But I knew that if I gave in once, the rest of the night would be unbearable.
Eventually, I found that I could “push through the wall.” If I chose to ignore the pain in my legs, somehow they would get the message and cease their complaints; I would be able to run and jump and play as though they were new.
But one of the brothers was not so fortunate.
Around 3 a.m. he succumbed to exhaustion. Earlier in the marathon, he had been bounding up and down the court, draining threes, and playing a strong defensive game.
But once he gave in to sleep, he never recovered. For the final hours of the event, he shuffled zombie-like down the court, eyes half-shut. On his breaks, he fell asleep on the floor and on the bench.
Anyone who has followed Christ will see the spiritual parallels. We have all witnessed too many vibrant disciples of Christ corrupted by complacency. They relax a few convictions here, a few convictions there, and soon they are like the Dead Sea: stagnant. Or they have left God altogether.
We must pace ourselves on this marathon to Golgotha. Burnout, too, can be disastrous. But we must never forget that complacency is a deadly disease that is easy to catch and difficult to cure.
5) Big Picture, Small Pain
“Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” -- 2 Cor. 4.17
Hoops for Hope was painful.
Pain in my feet. Pain in my head. Pain in my legs. Pain in my arms. Pain in my knees. Pain in my back.
Pain from lack of sleep. Pain from indigestion. Pain from sleep-deprivation.
But pain is a funny thing. In the moment, it seems agonizing and beyond endurance. But with the passage of time, it fades like all other memories, especially in light of something gratifying. Hoops was painful, but that pain pales in comparison to the satisfaction of having given so much to those who have so little.
In the same way, Paul reminds the suffering Corinthian church that in light of eternity, any memories of the trials of this earth will vanish away. Not only that, he assures them that their troubles are achieving for them “an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”
How many years does it take to forget the deepest pain? Ten thousand? We faithful saints will be in heaven for much longer than that, rapturously engrossed in the glory of God.
Many cringe at Christ’s call to carry their cross. They trade their heavenly inheritance for a meal, an eternal reward for a momentary comfort.
But we must strive to keep our lives within the perspective of heaven. Christ does not call us to a life of comfort; in this world we will have trouble. At times, that trouble will seem insurmountable and unbearable. Yet if we persevere, we have this joyous promise: Jesus has overcome the world. On our entrance into the heavenly realms, our present suffering will be to us nothing but a shadow, a light and momentary affliction.