January 23, 2022

Pastoral Nuggets: The Free Throws of Life

Brother AaronMy preacher buddy who lives in Huntsville Alabama, Henry Shellman, posted the following on his Facebook Page regarding UConn’s 2014 National Championship win over Kentucky.

He said, “To all you guys that are trying to be coaches, please note Kentucky lost by six points. They were slightly over 50% in free throws missed: 11, which is more than the difference of the game. The winning team was 100%. Teach your players to take advantage of those free throws.”

When I read this, it hit me like a ton of bricks.  I posted back to him, “I see a Pastoral Nugget in this!”

Did you catch what Henry said?  All things being equal, if Kentucky had just made 100% of its free throws, they would have won the game. There are some underlying Spiritual truths regarding free throws that I want to try to unearth with this column – and make a Spiritual application.

First, when is a basketball player given the opportunity to score with a free throw? Only after he has been fouled by the opposing team. Did you catch it?

It’s only after the opposing team has done something against the rules, something illegal, and something that is often quite painful, that the opportunity is given to score with a free throw. Make no mistake – free throws don’t come cheap! Often, there is real, undeniable, excruciating pain associated with them. So it is in the life of a Christian.

Often, our greatest opportunities to score for Jesus come because somebody has fouled us. Somebody broke the rules. Somebody didn’t play fair. I have often said, “We cannot control what happens to us. However, we can control how we respond.”

Romans 12:20 (KJV) says, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger; (The one who fouled you) feed him; if he thirst, give him drink; for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.”

In Aaron McCollough, Troup County Georgia English: When somebody fouls you – and they will – take a free throw. Take the high road. And turn your pain into something positive! Neither you nor I can expect to win the game of life if we don’t convert the free throw opportunities life hands us!

The game of life is different from the game of basketball. In basketball it is the player who was fouled that takes the free throw. In life, we can make a free throw into somebody else’s life when they are fouled.

How? By being there for them, by holding their hand in life’s devastating moments, by crying with them, and by being a friend when a friend is what they need. Years ago an English newspaper ran a contest for the best definition of the word “friend.” The winning entry read, “A friend is one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.”  Now, that’s how you score Spiritual free throws and win the game of life!

Secondly, how does the basketball player score? He must stand behind a line in front of the basketball goal. Then, flanked by an equal number of his teammates and members of the opposing team, and hundreds or thousands of fans in the stands, he must shoot the ball through the goal. How does he do this?  First, by practicing.

The free throw isn’t really made at the moment it is taken. It was made by the countless hours of practice. We tend to play like we practice. Secondly, he utilizes great concentration – blocking everything else out of his mind except his determination to turn a negative into a positive. So it is in the life of a Christian. It takes practice, great concentration, willpower, and the grace of God to turn pain into a score and victory.

I mentioned that when the player takes the free throw, he is flanked by his teammates.  They are there to try to get the rebound if he misses and turn the missed free throw into points.

Sometimes the free throws of life are audible.  They sound like: “I’m sorry,” “I love you,” “You’re forgiven,” “I miss you,” or, “I’m here for you.”

Hummm – I suppose I really don’t want to know how many free throws I’ve missed in life.  I pray that I’ve made enough in the lives of those I love – to win the game.

Think what a better world it would be if we as Christians learned to hit the free throws of life!  And by the way, sometimes the easiest way to score a free throw is to not be guilty of talking – when we should be listening!

Brother Aaron

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