David vs. Goliath isn’t about March Madness.

We have all heard it before. Maybe, we have even said it ourselves. “It’s a battle of David vs. Goliath!” Whether it is the big school vs. the small school, or it is the seemingly great team vs. the not-so-great team, this time of year seems to be the time more than any other when I hear about David vs. Goliath. March Madness!

After all, David of Bethlehem was a teenager who probably was not much more than five feet tall, and Goliath of Gath was at least nearly seven feet tall and possibly over nine feet tall. Goliath wore armor that probably weighed as much as David. His spear was about 15 times heavier than the normal spear used during that time. David was the ultimate underdog when he entered the battlefield to face Goliath.

While we all understand why this well-known story is referred to in underdog scenarios, I fear we are missing a very important point when we make this story about basketball. More importantly, we miss the point when we make this story about us.

David vs. Goliath is not recorded in the Bible to make us look inward for courage and strength. David vs. Goliath is recorded in the Bible to make us look upward to the Lord God Almighty.

The reality is, we are all much more likely to behave like Goliath than we are to behave like David. In our sinful, prideful nature, we are prone to think we have it all figured out and can “do all things” through our hard work, accomplishments, acquired skills, preparations, etc. Yes, we would all like to think of ourselves as David, but the truth is that we are more like Goliath – doing things our way rather than God’s way. If that happens to be the case, then we, too, like Goliath, will fall.

Sunday, Lord willing, I will just-so-happen to be preaching from 1 Samuel 17 on the story of David vs. Goliath. While March Madness will not be a part of my message, I cannot help but think of the reminders that both of these well-known events bring.

But, David vs. Goliath is not about March Madness. David vs. Goliath is not even about you or about me. David vs. Goliath is about God. In fact, David the victor points us to Jesus the Victor, the perfect descendant of David who conquered our greatest enemies – sin and death.

David defeated Goliath because God was with him and because God is faithful and in control. Do not make yourself out to be David. Rather, trust in the same God in whom David trusted, and experience the victorious faith that only comes in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God.

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We can’t do anything we put our minds to.

Silas (above) and Zoe (below) are playing Upward Basketball at a local church this winter and learning a lot about teamwork, fundamentals, discipline, and faith, thanks to great coaches like my wife, Marsha.

Now, when kids play sports, especially if they enjoy playing and hope to be great, people tend to say things like, “You can do anything you put your mind to.”

Is that wise counsel, though? I do not believe it is because the truth is that you cannot do anything you put your mind to, and I cannot either. In fact, we can do absolutely nothing apart from the grace and help of God.

If there was any man who seemed like he could do anything he put his mind to, King Saul was surely that man, was he not? But, as is clearly recorded in 1 Samuel 13 and following, King Saul had a tragic downfall. In fact, he became the villain – the enemy of God.

King David, on the other hand, was not someone you would think of, at least at first, as someone who could do anything he put his mind to. And, the reality was, he too could not do anything he put his mind to. Sure, he did amazing things, but how? Well, by the grace and help of God. Not until after the Spirit of God took control of David did he do the incredible things people still talk about today.

The story of King David is not a story to inspire us to think we can do great things. Rather, the story of King David ought to remind us that we serve a great God.

God can do anything He puts His mind to, including use ordinary people like you and me to do extraordinary things. Do not believe in yourself. Believe in Him.

Start by making sure you have a genuine, born-again relationship with Him, and continue by trusting and surrendering to Him each day. Only He is sufficient to enable you to reach your full potential in Him.

Will Silas and Zoe be basketball superstars some day. It is possible but statistically unlikely. Who cares, though? More importantly, they are learning about a super God – the One who can do all things, the One who never fails, and the One who loves us so much that He sent His One and only Son to die for our sins.

We cannot do anything we put our minds to, but we serve a God who can. He, not our abilities or accomplishments, holds our eternal destiny in His hands.

Merry Christmas from the Drakes!

Greetings! We pray you and yours are doing well and seeking the Lord this Christmas season. Thankfully, our family has had a good and “normal” 2018 (as normal as a family of seven can experience, at least).

Noah (13) is in 7th grade and had his first season of tackle football this fall. He really enjoyed football, and his team going undefeated certainly helped. Now, he is busy with basketball, which is his favorite sport.

Levi (12) is in 6th grade and just started his basketball season, too, where he is fortunate (at times) and unfortunate (at times) to have his dad as his coach. Now in middle school, Levi greatly misses his favorite part of the day: recess.

Silas (8) is in 2nd grade and is constantly seeking to make people laugh and have fun. He is looking forward to basketball soon but says his favorite thing to do is play with toys.

Zoe (7) is in 1st grade and is gritty and holding her own with four brothers. She, as much as her brothers, loves rough-housing and playing tackle football in the yard. She can’t stop talking about how excited she is to start basketball.

Micah (3 ½) has now been a part of the Drake family for 18 months, but it seems like he has been here all along. While he is still a big-time mommy’s boy at heart, he sure adores the rest of his family and loves to try to do everything his siblings are doing.

Marsha is staying busy with Micah on her heels all day, and she continues to serve our church family in children’s ministry on Sundays and Wednesdays. She loves hanging out with our family, being involved in the kids’ school activities and sports, and keeping up with various projects.

Nick has been the pastor of Richland Baptist Church for more than five years now, and he loves this ministry, particularly preaching, discipleship and outreach. He, along with the rest of the family, is beyond grateful that his mom, sister Ashley and niece Sahari all moved to Fulton this year. It is an incredible blessing to all be a part of the same church and see each other multiple times each week.

While there are countless things for which we can give thanks this year, nothing even compares to the eternal life that is promised in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He came to this earth more than 2,000 years ago, born of a virgin and lived a perfect life. Then, He died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures promised He would.

When Jesus rose from the dead, He won the victory over sin and death, so that “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13). Have you called on His name and asked Him to take over your life? If not, we pray you will make that decision before it’s too late because just like He came, as promised, the first time, He is coming again, as promised. And, His second coming is one of eternal judgment for all who have not yet surrendered to His Lordship, whereas it is a welcoming of eternal glory for all who have surrendered to Him.

If you have any questions about what it means to follow Jesus, please don’t hesitate to contact us. While we are far from perfect and certainly do not have all the answers, we would love to pray for and encourage you in any way we can.

Hope you have a great rest of the week and great start to 2019.

Merry Christmas and God bless you!

2018 Drake Kids
Micah’s face in this picture is a great example of how we often do NOT have it all together. Far from it, in fact.

Either Obsession or Rejection

Imagine if my son Noah (pictured above shooting a free throw) decided that he wanted to play basketball but that he also wanted to play video games on his Kindle during basketball practice and/or games. No coach in his right mind would be okay with that. You cannot give your best on the court if your mind (not to mention your eyes and your hands) are elsewhere. You have to focus. You have to be committed. You have to do your best.

My dad, who was my high school basketball coach, used to say something like, “You’re either all in, or you’re not in at all.” In fact, if you were not “all in,” you literally would not “be in” (in the game, that is).

While I found myself obsessed with basketball (and sports in general) when I was a teenager, I was eventually sorely disappointed when basketball did not take me (or I did not take basketball) as far as I wanted to go. I am thankful, though, for the life-lessons of teamwork, commitment, loyalty, hard work, dedication, sacrifice and priorities that are learned through sports.

Still, sports are just a part of life. They are not, despite what I believed as a student athlete, life itself.

Following Jesus, however, is different. Yes, there are sports-related lessons we can apply to a life of faith, but sports, like everything else in life, pale in comparison to knowing the Lord. Walking in a genuine relationship with Him is what we were created to do. This relationship is life.

Thankfully, I learned this as a sophomore in college, when God opened my eyes to the truth of the gospel, and I placed my faith in His Son for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

To follow Jesus, according to the Bible, means being 100% sold-out for Him. In other words, you are either obsessed with Him, or you are rejecting Him. Too many people seem content to find a middle ground, but there is no middle ground with the King of kings and the Lord of lords. You either give Him your all, or you are worshiping something or someone else. You’re either all in, or you’re not in at all.

Tomorrow, I will be preaching through Mark 14:1-31 during our church‘s morning worship service. In verses 3-9 is the amazing story of a woman who gave up something of incredible value in order to worship Jesus. As a result, Jesus said, “I assure you: Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).

This woman was obsessed with Jesus. Are you? Or, are you rejecting Him? Do not settle for the lie of an acceptable middle ground. Surrender your life to Jesus, ask for His help, and be all in. Unlike sports, He will never leave you disappointed.

When we lost 46-0… (losing lessons)

lessons from losingI’m coaching my two oldest sons’ youth  basketball team this year. Last week we lost our first game 14-10. Last night we lost 46-0. Yes, you read that correctly. We scored 0 points and gave up 46…to 3rd and 4th graders. I can’t recall ever being so humiliated in the sports arena in my entire life. No, I’ve never been a superstar as a player or as a coach, but 46-0?! It was tough. It is tough.
 
Lots of things were racing through my mind after that game last night. I hate losing and hated this embarrassment for the sake of my team and for my own pride. Still, I believe there are several lessons from losing that were clearer to me after such a humiliating loss.

     

  1. Losing fosters humility.
    “When pride comes, disgrace follows, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2). Now, don’t get me wrong. Our team did not have a great deal of pride that needed chipping away. We know we’re not very good. Only a couple of our 10 players have ever even played organized basketball before this year. Still, the great humiliation that comes from a thumping can be good for us, and it can build character. It certainly protects us from feeling a sense of pride and thinking we’re something special.
     
    Losing reminds us of something we too often forget – it’s not all about us. When you lose, no one is celebrating you. In fact, for the record, I am adamantly opposed to trophies for participation. Let’s not reward losing. Let’s encourage winning and encourage losers to get better but stay humble because anyone can lose.
     
    I told my two oldest sons last night that sometimes getting crushed like this can be good for us. Losses, especially big and embarrassing losses, remind us that this life has a lot of loss. Things are not always going to go our way. We are going to be disappointed. We are going to be hurt. We are going to lose. Losing fosters humility.
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  3. Losing helps learning.
    One of the things I refuse to do with 3rd and 4th graders is to play zone defense. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not opposed to zone defense, as it can often be the best and most effective option when played well and used in the right situations with the right players. Children who are learning how to play basketball, though, need to learn how to play hard man-to-man defense. There is no question we would do better in a 2-3 zone because very few 3rd and 4th graders can shoot from the perimeter. Zone defense would help us cover up the weaknesses of our less experienced players and better use the strengths of the few who actually know what they are doing on the court.
     
    Last night, playing zone would not have changed the outcome of the game, except that we probably would have lost by 30+ points and grabbed a few more rebounds, rather than losing by 46 points and getting crushed on the boards.
     
    Last week, though, could have been different. The team we were playing came out in the second half playing a 2-3 zone. Since our players aren’t strong enough to shoot outside the lane, and since we don’t have any ball handlers, we only scored two points in the second half (after leading 8-0 at halftime). Their zone worked on us, and my unwillingness to play zone hurt us. Both last week and last night, we gave up several layups because we always have players on the court who just don’t quite understand yet what it is to play defense.
     
    But, I desperately want our kids to learn how important hard-working, pressure defense is. Maybe I’m being ridiculous, but I believe learning has to trump not losing at this age. For that reason, I think losing can help in the learning process because it exploits our weaknesses. If we play a 2-3 zone, we will do better, but some of our players will never learn to play defense. Losing shouts loudly what we need to do differently. Losing helps learning.
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  5. Losing emphasizes effort.
    When we were getting destroyed last night, some of the kids were (understandably so) dejected. They became lethargic and stopped putting forth much effort. Some of the others, though, were sprinting down the court and diving for loose balls like it was a close game that really mattered.
     
    It’s much easier to be motivated and put forth effort when we have a chance to win, especially to win a game of importance and excitement. By the time our team was down 10-0 before the end of the first quarter last night, though, we realized how much we were outmatched in this lopsided game. Still, some of the kids never gave up. They kept playing hard. They hustled down the court. They listened to me coach and tried to do better. I noticed, and I made sure they knew. I hope others noticed. I hope their effort only increases and that it is rewarded with future success and strong character.
     
    When someone keeps getting knocked down but keeps getting back up for more, he is noticed. There’s a reason the crowd cheered for Rocky against Apollo Creed and that even the Russians cheered for Rocky by the end of his fight against Ivan Drago. Of course, Rocky ended up winning that last fight, but he was definitely losing when the cheering started. Losing emphasizes effort.
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  7. Losing still stinks.
    Even with all the things I learn, I do not endorse losing. I hate losing. I don’t even like losing a board game to my preschoolers. I am, when not careful and/or not held accountable, sinfully competitive. Hopefully, I’m not a poor loser and a poor sport, but I find it very difficult to find contentment after a loss, especially a loss in something I care about and something at which I work hard to win.
     
    Losing stinks because I don’t believe we were created to be losers. Losing is against our nature. We can learn to accept and deal with losing, but I think there is a problem if we settle for losing without striving for more.

    Last night was another one of those moments when I found myself missing my dad like crazy. My dad was a competitor and a winner. He also hated losing. He worked hard at everything he did. He didn’t give up. He didn’t settle for mediocrity. He taught me to work hard and sacrifice my own goals for the sake of the team…the success of the team.
     
    My dad was a great coach, too. Even though he was a high school basketball coach, my dad worked with young children every weekend for years to help them learn the fundamentals of basketball and develop of a love and passion for the sport. He had a gift of making it fun but giving kids a hunger to do well and to win. When my dad died a couple years ago at the young age of 57, I remember thinking how much I would miss him when it was time for my kids to learn the fundamentals of the game.
     
    Last night, the memory was as strong as it has ever been. I’m not a gifted coach like my dad was. The patience that he had in teaching basic fundamentals is missing in me. His ability to make it fun and make it last was special. Losing last night was tough for many reasons, but the toughest for me was the realization that I won’t get to ask my dad for advice. He won’t get to teach my kids how to play basketball the right way. Losing still stinks.

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  9. Losing is temporary.
    I can’t make this promise to my team for this season. We’re not very good. We might not win a game. The season could be a long one, a difficult one and a discouraging one. Still, losing is temporary.Do you ever wonder if sports would have existed if sin hadn’t entered the world? I have to imagine they would have because, after all, sports are a blast. Some of my best memories have come on the basketball court, the football field and the baseball diamond. How different would sports be, though, without sin? I mean, sports aren’t really sports if someone doesn’t lose. Losing is never fun, but would it have been “fun” if we were perfectly humble and completely satisfied in God? Would we be completely satisfied with losing if we were completely surrendered to Christ?
     
    Losing is temporary because we can have eternal victory in the gospel of Jesus Christ. To make that possible, though, He had to lose. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ: although He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). His loss…His sacrifice for our victory is because of His steadfast love for us. This is a love we do not deserve but a love we freely receive only in Him. “God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!” (Romans 5:8).
     
    Please realize, though, that His loss is only your gain if you believe in Him. Losing stinks because losing hurts. You cannot fathom, though, the loss that will come if you don’t trust in the One who died for you.
     
    Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will reward each according to what he has done.” -Matthew 16:24-27
     
    We can rejoice even in losing because we know that losing (whether losing a game or losing something much greater) is temporary. It’s temporary because we can put our faith in the King of kings and Lord of lords, and His victory is everlasting.