The Nike ad shows a reflective Michael Jordan. He is sitting on a chair on the floor of the Berto Center, the practice facility for the Chicago Bulls. A basketball rests beneath him; a rack of balls awaits him. Behind the glass backboard four world championship banners are clearly visible. This is “Michael’s house,” the place where he has spent over 7,423 hours perfecting his craft. Do the math. That’s two and a half years of eight-hour workdays dribbling, shooting and rebounding. The ad copy reads, “MUCH RESPECT TO THE GAME.” Those who would reach the pinnacle of the game must give it respect; and respect in any sport is spelled P-R-A-C-T-I-C-E! There are no shortcuts to excellence. It takes discipline, commitment and hard work. If anyone knows that, it is Michael Jordan: Rookie of the Year, five-time MVP, ten-time All NBA First Team, 29,000 career points, and a most impressive six championship banners. Michael knows the importance of practice—and so does Paul. No other person has made an impact on the world for Christ as this first-century apostle. We get a taste of his spiritual work ethic in a letter he wrote to his young protégé, Timothy:
Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Spend your time and energy in training yourself for spiritual fitness. Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next. This is true, and everyone should accept it. We work hard and suffer much in order that people will believe the truth, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and particularly of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:7-10 NLT)
I can hear Paul as he and his friend walk into the gym: “Timothy, if you want to be your best for God you’ve got to practice! It is not enough to show up on ‘game day,’ you’ve got to put in the time in solitude, praying, reflecting on God’s word, serving others and loving people.” Paul wasn’t preaching something he didn’t practice. Examine his life and you will find a man, like Michael, who gave his all to “the game.” And do you notice what was driving him? It was the hope of a championship banner! He said: We work hard and suffer much in order that people will believe the truth.
Lofty goals take lots of work, whether that is the hope of a world championship or changing our world for Christ. I have never heard God ask us for 7,423 hours, but I have read where Jesus chided his disciples for their inability to give him one hour (Matthew 26:40-41). If we want to win spiritual championships, we must still give “much respect to the game.” What will it take for you to be at your best for God?
FOCAL POINT: What needs to change in your “spiritual workouts” for you to be at your best for God? Carve out time today to give God one hour. It may be an hour of solitude, prayer, reflecting on Scripture, or sixty minutes of service. Remember: “Much respect to the game!”
Copyright © 2010 Tommy Kiedis