On Sunday I enjoyed a rare privilege: since it was Father’s Day, Angela and the kids allowed me to kick back and watch the NBA finals with the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat. We don’t have cable, so I was able to watch the game on broadcast–ABC 7 being one of the few channels that comes over on my flimsy HD antennae.
Since my team, the Chicago Bulls are out of the playoffs (next year, though . . .), I have no dog in this fight. For about two years after Lebron “took his talents to South Beach” I nurtured a healthy “sports hate” for the Miami Heat. (Sports hate is different than actual hate. It’s actually okay as a Christian to do this. I can’t quote you Scripture and verse on this or a wise church father, but trust me, it’s okay.) After Lebron and Miami won the title last year I sort of got over my dislike and actually enjoyed watching them play. But in the Finals I have to root for San Antonio, only to root for the way they play, the continuity, the discipline, the unselfishness.
So I’m watching the game. During a particularly intense time at the end of the first half, the broadcast featured a “live mic” of Spurs Coach Greg Popovich talking to his players in a timeout. He said something that I’ve been mulling over ever since, a great word that I think can be applied, without too much stretching, to the game of life. Leaning in and looking his guys in the eye, Pop said, “Men, this is a big-boy game.”
This is a big boy game. In other words, this is the NBA Finals. It’s not the All-Star Game. It’s not a pick-up game at the Y. This is for all the marbles. The game is gonna be physical. It’s gonna be hard. The other team wants to win as much as you do. Time to put on your big boy pants and play like a man.
I loved that bit of wisdom from Coach Pop. I think it applies to real life, whether or not you’re a man or a woman, a jock or a non-jock. Living the way of Jesus is a big boy game. Paul seems to say this many times in his letters. To the Corinthians, he speaks of his choice to “put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 11:13). He also told them to “act like men” (1 Corinthians 16:13) , stop acting like children (1 Corinthians 14:20) and admonished them for still drinking the milk for spiritual food instead of meat (1 Corinthians 3:2). As Christians we know that we will never be perfect in this life, but we should have a goal of growing up into maturity (Ephesians 4:15). Over and over again, “being sober-minded” is given as a trait of Christian growth. It’s hard to escape this in the New Testament, not to mention Old Testament language like David’s deathbed wisdom to Solomon to “play the man” (I Kings 2:2).
The point here is that while Christians will always be broken and in need of grace, we also are being renewed by the Spirit of God. There is a sanctification process, a “getting better” process that God is doing in us, to rid us of the old, childish sinful ways and habits and making us more like Jesus. This is a process we can resist by clinging to our old patterns (James 1:4). We can quench (1 Thessalonians 5:19 and grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) in His work.
When I think of life as a “big boy game” it makes me think of all the times I complain about it being hard. When I come home tired and complain about having to give our children baths or engage them in discipline for what they’ve done wrong. When I want to lay around the house instead of helping my wife. When I wish I had more time to do the things I want to do. When leadership at church gets difficult. When there are conflicts and mundane tasks and hard conversations. When I have to stay up late to finish a project instead of watching a favorite TV show.
These are big boy tasks. These are for adults.
The point is not to discourage, but to reshape our thinking. Life is not supposed to be “flowery beds of ease.” We live in a fallen world, ruined by the curse. We’ll experience things unfair and cruel. We are at war with an enemy who wants to take us down (1 Peter 5:8), temptation by temptation. It’s time to “gird up the loins” of our minds (1 Peter 1:13) and obey the Spirit of God as He leads us to do God’s will.
Yes, this is not beanbag or preschool. It’s a big boy game.