One More Day In The Gym by: Scott Wesley Brown
I never had the privilege of meeting the late coach and Hall of Famer John Wooden who led the UCLA Bruins basketball team to ten NCAA national championships. But I feel like I’ve grown to know him through a staff member at my church whose husband played under Wooden along the side of such
basketball greats as Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
After such record-breaking success, a sports announcer once asked Wooden if he could re-live
one great sports memory what it would be?
Coach thought for a moment and answered, “one more day in the gym, practicing”. Hardly the answer the announcer expected. Surely it would have been some moment of triumphant glory
where the Bruins pulled off a harrowing victory in the final seconds of the game.
But that was not John Wooden the teacher, who often said that basketball was an excuse to teach young men about the really important things. It wasn’t about basketball, it was about life.
And this Christian coach saw practice as an opportunity for discipleship.
Of course there were the players who didn’t want to show up for practice. After all they were stars in their own right. They wanted the glory of the game! They had worked hard enough so why not just
cut to the chase and hit the hardwood.
This somehow reminds me of a little episode recorded in the very first chapter of the book of Acts. Right before the ascension the disciples asked Jesus “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”.
It seemed like a legitimate question. After all they had walked with Jesus for three years and endured a lot of tough situations. Many long journeys, sleepless nights, rough seas, feeding multitudes,
listening to perplexing parables, enduring harsh words from Pharisees and seeing their master nailed to a Roman cross with a crown of thorns thrust upon his head.
Hadn’t they had enough practice so to speak? They were ready for the big game. Now was the time for glory! Jesus had risen from the grave! But Jesus answered saying “It is not for you to know times
or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy
Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria,
and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:7-8
Maybe, like some of coach Wooden’s players they were ready to ride the winds of glory. But
Jesus, the good shepherd, the true coach was making it plain that the journey had just begun.
This little band of fisherman and a tax collector would experience the true meaning of discipleship.
There would come a time for glory but they would never taste it in their lifetime.
We often suffer with the same mindset. As a musician and worship leader I always have so much focus on the goal that I forget about the importance of the journey. My week becomes "all about
Sunday morning". The songs, the sound, the glory of being in God’s presence, the joy of seeing our
congregation enter into worship. I dread the preparation; the long rehearsals and the endless
sound checks. Let me just jump to that moment of a glorious worship experience.
And even more devastating to my soul, my half-hearted discipline of abiding in God’s word on a daily basis, the avoiding of desperately needed times on my knees. No just let me cut to the chase.
I’m good enough to hit the hardwood! I can almost feel the glory!
Maybe it’s our consumer driven culture that has tricked us into thinking that the product is more important than the process. In school it’s not about our learning experience but about our grades!
In the Christian recording industry a record is not the fruit of a ministry but often the seed of a ministry. Somehow we got it all reversed.
But God magnificently steps in and reminds us that before the crown there was a cross. He reminds us that while the goal is important, the journey is where he has the pleasure of coaching us. This is
where sanctification takes place. You know, that uncomfortable place between our calling and our
glorification. (Rom. 8:29-30) It is where we get to become like Christ. It is not always easy. It is
hard knocking, sweat dripping, heart pounding, grueling practice.
Two thousand years have passed since the disciples asked Jesus about restoring the kingdom.
I wonder if they felt let down by our Lord’s answer. Eventually they all were tortured, imprisoned
and murdered, save one who was banished to a tiny island. Not a whole lot of glory.
But what sons of God they became. What champions of the Gospel! Only now they know the final score and can taste the ultimate victory! And while God could have cut to the chase at any moment during these past two thousand years he has chosen to tarry.
His coaching season is not over.
Perhaps we would do well to learn from a famous basketball coach and rejoice over one more day in the gym, practicing!