This is one of my favorite times of the year! It isn’t just because of the weather, or the holidays, it is because of basketball! I love the tension of Championship Week as teams grind it out to see who will make the NCAA tournament and what their seeding will be once they get there. Then, my favorite Thursday and Friday of the year arrive when March Madness and the tournament tip off! The action is crazy as the fates of entire schools and fan bases rest in the hands of 18-22 year olds. No one person can do it, it takes teamwork: Five men working as one. In the end, there will only be one team left standing. Oh the drama, and how it mimics the ups and downs of our lives. We may be the underdogs of life, but we are never to be counted out. Though we may have never been heard of, we have opportunities to come up big when the stage is the biggest.
In the moments just after the final game, there is a tradition where a highlight reel is played of the entire tournament. It features the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows of the young men we have come to know as we have watched this drama unfold. Over the last month their personal stories have been shared in heartwarming clips, so we almost feel as if we know them. The background music is always the same: One Shining Moment. The video shows how these young men have taken advantage of their one shining moment. When the spotlight of the nation was upon them, the weight of the schools on their backs, they came up big. The highlight reel shows the adulation of thrill and the agony of defeat, both fueled by the depth of passion as everything these young men had was left on the floor. They gave it their all.
I wonder… are we taking advantage of our moments to shine? As the highlight reel of our life is shown, what will it look like? In Matthew 25:35-40 Jesus said, 35for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
Life is a mission trip. We are always on mission for Jesus. We have been placed on purpose and with a purpose by a holy God. Are we taking advantage of the opportunities He gives us to shine for Him? Did we stand up for others when we had the chance? Did we just stand silently and listen to the off-color joke or story, or did we speak up? Did we take advantage of a teachable moment, using it to point others to Jesus and disciple them, helping them understand the depths of what it means to be a dedicated follower of Christ?
When we were alone and the temptation was overwhelming, did we give in or did we pray one more time and allow the end of the rope to become a knot in our hands as the power of the Holy Spirit took over and brought us victory? As you neared the end of that pack or that bottle, did you purpose in your heart that this would be the last one? Surely that will be on the reel! What a moment! What a Savior!
Did you see that last highlight? It was the time you smiled politely to the man behind the counter. You didn’t know it, but he just learned that his mother had passed away. How about the next one? That was the time you cooked a little extra and carried it to the family who had just had surgery. You will never know how much it blessed them. Oh! And how about all of those emails, texts, cards, and phone calls that were gentle reminders and encouragements just to let people know you cared? They arrived at just the right moments, precisely when people needed them the most.
How about the heart-pounding moment as you heard about Jesus, the time when your heart was convicted, and your spirit broke? That has to be the greatest shining moment of all! In the Hollywood version, that would be the climax! Whether you loosened your grip on a church pew and slowly stepped out into the aisle, or perhaps you knelt by your bedside with your parents, or stood in a doorstep with strangers, no matter the circumstance it is a Shining Moment for all eternity! Your highlight reel will be amazing! The best part is that it is still in the making as long as God gives you breath! He is the Author, and as we follow His plan for our lives, every day is filled with highlights! Every tomorrow is another opportunity to make more.
So this year as I watch the NCAA Tournament and await the eventual winner, I will listen to the final tribute just a little differently. I will probably still tear up as I think of the joys and heartbreak that these 18-22 year-old kids went through, and what an impact the last month has made on their lives. But I will also see a bigger picture, one with eternity in sight, and be convicted about all the shining moments in my own life.
What are we doing with the one life we’ve been given? Let’s shine for Jesus.