By Leonard Lauriault: QCS Religion Columnist
Well, the March Madness of college basketball is over. I played football in high school and I still like the sport, but I’m more of a basketball fan. In my home state of Kentucky, football is viewed as something to do until basketball season starts. Anyway, my favorite college basketball team (Kentucky … surprise, surprise) didn’t do so well during the regular season and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Oh well, as we often console ourselves. “Just wait ‘til next year.”
During the professional football playoffs, I met a lady who’d been a fan of the Seattle Seahawks since they first played in 1976. She was delighted they were finally coming into their own. That’s how it is with us sports fans – we stick with ‘our’ team through thick and thin to the bitter end. There might even still be some fans of “America’s Team” around.
Local teams and individual athletes have done well in several sports this year. I wasn’t able to go to Tucumcari’s state basketball tournament game, but the radio commentators and others who did attend said the crowd from Tucumcari was one of the largest they’d seen, even at a Tucumcari home game. Hopefully, our local athletes will realize that there are a lot of people who support them and follow their success by listening to the radio and reading the newspaper although they can’t attend the games.
Those who do make it to the games, the fans in the stands, are recognized as a key component of any team. In basketball, five players are on the court at any given time, but coaches often acknowledge that six players are active at all times, the sixth man being the fans. They know how important encouragement from the sidelines is for maintaining momentum or turning a game around from defeat to victory.
The greatest fans are those who’ve participated in the sport themselves. They know what it’s like on the playing field or the court, the track, the mat, or in the arena.
Christians also need this kind of support in daily living. So, God provides it at three levels. First, we have one another to encourage us in faithfulness and good deeds (maintaining positive momentum, Hebrews 10: 24-32).
Second, we have the encouraging example of the heroes of old — our ancestors in the faith (Hebrews 11: 1-38). Reminding each other of God’s hall of faith is one way we cheer each other on to victory. We need to remember that we are the heroes of the present to one another and if we maintain our faithfulness, we’ll join our Christian ancestral heroes, who are cheering us on and waiting until all the heroes, the saints, are gathered in (Hebrews 11: 39 to 12: 1).
Finally, our fan support begins and ends with God through Jesus Christ, his Son, and the Holy Spirit he has given us (Hebrews 10: 19-23; 12: 2-4; John 14: 15-18; Galatians 3: 26 to 4: 7). If we focus on Jesus and his love for us, even when we sin, we’ll never be defeated by our sin (1 Corinthians 11: 23-32; Acts 20: 7; John 8: 24-26; 2 Corinthians 13: 5, 6; Romans 8: 13, 14).
Jesus is the sixth man who makes it to every game (Matthew 28: 20; Hebrews 13: 5, 6). He’s not a “fair weather friend,” only showing up after the team has been on a winning streak. Win, lose, or draw Jesus is there leading us in a triumphal procession (2 Corinthians 2: 14; 1 John 5: 3-5). As the sixth man, Jesus has been in the arena of this earthly life, facing everything we face, including the temptations and hardships, and doing what it took to turn our impending defeat into victory (Hebrews 4: 14-16; 9: 11-14; John 16: 33).
Another intriguing point about Jesus being the sixth man is that all Christians are included as members of his body. Every Christian — every person who has united themselves with Christ – is to participate in the functions of the body (Romans 6: 3-5; Ephesians 1: 13, 14; Acts 19: 1-5; 1 Corinthians 12: 12-27).
Are you included in the body of Christ, participating in the fellowship and encouragement all Christians enjoy as part of that body? If not, your game is destined for defeat.
Leonard Lauriault is a member of the Church of Christ.