Building the Kingdom

I recently watched an animated movie with the family and discovered, once again, that the movie had a thinly-veiled biblical theme. The basic premise of most of these movies is the same; good triumphs over evil, love over hate. There are varying levels of adversity that must be overcome during the conflicts but they are always overcome. The protagonist builds necessary character and learns to be a team player in order to fulfill his or her destiny and save the day, with or without assistance. There is much reward for the change of heart and there are a plethora of benefits that accompany the personal growth. It never gets old. The Bible is such a great model for everything. Patience, perseverance and prayer are required to find what you need. Non-believers and part-time believers often internalize messages and methods that are derived from Jesus himself and they never make the connection. In my opinion, in order for any processes to run smoothly and to be successful, a biblical foundation is required, whether it is acknowledged or not. At this time, I am enthralled with the journey to the NBA finals, so let’s look at the Miami Heat team as well as the Kentucky Wildcats of the 2002-2003 campaign, a most unlikely holder of a 26-game winning streak. Different construction, different strategies but the concept of team is consistent with both units.

During the fifth season of Orlando “Tubby” Smith’s coaching tenure at Kentucky, the 2002-2003 season, the Wildcats had injury problems early. At the end of the day on December 28, 2002, the team had suffered its third loss and the faithful were concerned. On January 14, 2003, the eleven win – three loss Kentucky Wildcats were in Nashville to battle the Vanderbilt Commodores. The first quarter was in the books with Vanderbilt in firm control and the second quarter seemed to be heading down the drain for the Wildcats. Then, the proverbial light seemed to go on for the Wildcats. The Commodores took a 36-28 lead into halftime but went home with a 74-52 loss to mull over. It was a magnificent display and the glorious start of the winning-steak. The streak was halted during the Elite Eight game of the NCAA tournament that featured an injury-weakened Kentucky Wildcat team against the Dwyane Wade-led Marquette Golden Eagles. Kentucky lost but the lesson was stark – teams win games. That Wildcat squad boasted zero first or second team All-Americans. Tubby empowered his entire team by allowing them to play. He was able to pull potential out of all of them so that he could piece together game plans that capitalized on the strengths of all of his players. It was awesome to watch. In like manner, Eric Spoelstra has been able to capitalize on the strengths of all of his players in Miami as they battle for a second consecutive NBA championship trophy.

Five years ago, the coaching guru turned general manager, Pat Riley, and the Miami Heat organization brought in a young man Riley said was “born to coach”. They brought in Eric Spoelstra to succeed Riley. And while Spoelstra has probably benefited greatly from the advice of walking history (Riley), it is Spoelstra alone who coaches this squad of champions. There are many who discount the coaching job Spoelstra has done because his roster includes the “Big Three”; LeBron James (the best player on the planet at this moment and the league’s most valuable player), Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Still, there have been many rosters that boasted All-American and All-World type players and yet those units were unable to reach the pinnacles of their professions because they did not operate as efficient and effective teams. It is a tough sell for coaches; to have players who have been superior individual talents and perhaps were able to carry their teams to victory all of their lives to dim the light a bit and to find ways to help their team be successful, in ways that may be out of their wheel-houses of expertise and comfort. For me, that makes the job that Eric Spoelstra has done all the more remarkable. All of the players had to buy in to the team philosophy. Discipline had to overcome disharmony. The players had to maintain focus through misunderstandings and misgivings. They had to press through the times when everyone on the team had an occasion to revert back to what they used to do to win. Building a team is not easy and it is not for the faint-of-heart. Oh, but when it emerges, it is majestic and formidable, as is this Miami Heat team – a powerhouse of unselfish, team-oriented, ego-neutral (at least during games) champions.

So let us consider another type of team; the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 12:14, 18-20, the ideal coalescence of and the function of the body of Christ – the team so to speak – is outlined; “the body is not made up of one part but of many. . . . . . But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” So, God has given all of us talents and gifts to serve His purposes as parts of the collective body. We contribute to the team based on our individual gifts. Your tasks may be similar to mine but they are not the same. Your testimony may speak to people who have no interest in mine. The depth of my pain prepares me for my journey and the intensity of your pain prepares you for yours. Your struggles build in you strength for your position in the body, not mine. None of this means that I can’t help you with your tasks. As a follower of God, it is my responsibility and my great joy to help you reach your goal because it helps me reach mine – ours really. Still, while I can help you with your tasks and you can help me with mine, the accomplishment of my tasks is up to me and the completion of your tasks is up to you. We must focus on our directions “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). We are empowered daily by our not-so-secret weapon, the Holy Spirit – our personal companion for everyday living. If we would have patience in the development of our talents and gifts (not comparing ourselves to others or their rate of growth), if we would persevere through adversity (as we build our testimonies) and pray for strength and power to stand firm in faith (under any and all circumstances), our team would be awesome. So, what is distracting you from your tasks today?

Regina R. Tate

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