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Two Ways of Shooting a Free Throw

Yesterday I enjoyed some great games at the Nebraska Boy’s State Basketball Championships in Lincoln. As always, missed and made free throws down the stretch were critical to the outcome of the games. Down by one-point, with 8.8 seconds left in the C-2 semi-final game, GICC sank two free throws to give them the lead and the win over Ravenna. The young man stepped up to the line with his team down, the crowd yelling and screaming, and all eyes on him. What defined the success of these free throws? From the world’s perspective, he was successful because he made the free throws and his team advanced to the State Championship game. But is this the way God views free throws?

Free throws do a great job of showing the contrast of doing sports God’s way or man’s way. When a player is alone at the free throw line, the intentions of this heart get exposed. The world might not see it, but God certainly does. What drives or motivates this athlete at the free throw line? Man’s way defines success has getting the ball to go through the hoop. Anything short of this goal is a failure. As a result, basketball players are often driven by fear as they shoot the free throw. Fear of failure, fear of letting their team and fans down, fear of missing the big shot at state. But fear is sin. In Isaiah 41:10 God says to “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God”. God commands us not to fear! 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”.

God’s way means that you are motivated by a love for God. You step up to that free throw line with the sole aim of pleasing your heavenly Father. You desire to steward the athletic ability God has given you to glorify and honor him. Your heart is not fixed on temporary things such as man’s applause or a state championship ring. Your heart is fixed on the glory of God. He is your only audience. That way, whether you miss or make the free throw, it will be a success in the eyes of God and you will be conformed more to the image of Jesus Christ. Romans 8:28-29 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” This is God’s goal in shooting a simple free throw. He desires to get the glory and for us be conformed more into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.

Next time you or someone else steps up to the free throw line remember the clear difference in doing it God’s way or man’s way. Remind yourself and others how to truly succeed at the line!

Josh Reynolds
Central-Northeast Nebraska FCA

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