You hear of many different ways in which people come to Christ… and many assorted and diverse backgrounds of people who become committed to Jesus. Some of these people you assumed or knew would become followers of The Way, and some are quite surprising. In this short article, I want to showcase a couple these folks using basketball as an analogy… one that epitomizes a slam dunk, and the other a somewhat unlikely half court, a nothing-but-net buzzer beating three pointer.
Our first subject is Franklin Graham. Franklin is the son of Billy Graham, the well-known, arena filling preacher from North Carolina. Franklin in this setting represents the slam dunk. Being the son of Billy, you would not be surprised if his son became a follower of Jesus… and that has become the case. Franklin has grown into his own, and is the head of Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian non-profit world-wide organization that helps victims of war and natural disasters in the name of Jesus Christ. Franklin works tirelessly in his efforts to help those in need, and is a light for Christ in the darkest parts of the world. It is not a surprise how he displays his belief in his Savior, and I’m sure his daddy Billy was very proud of his boy’s faith, and the way he follows it up in serving those in need. If there could ever be a slam dunk for the likelihood of one being saved, it is Franklin Graham.
Our second subject is Greg Laurie. Greg is the Senior Pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in California, and is the lead speaker of many national Christian events and conferences, including his own Harvest Crusades. Greg did not have a sound childhood in which he saw, heard and learned of the gospel of Jesus Christ as a youngster as Franklin did. In fact, he had a difficult upbringing, one in which his mother was a serious drug user. Greg knew little of his real father. In this environment and upbringing, on the surface it is easy to think that salvation would be fleeting from a person in this situation. That is why in this analogy, I consider Greg to have made an improbable but amazing half-court shot… a shot of salvation from his faith in our Savior Jesus. Greg followed this up with obedience that has led to one of the greatest and initially unlikely success stories in the evangelical church today, leading thousands to their own faith in God through Jesus.
Like most of you, I am a parent… a parent of a young boy. I often think about his future, what he will do, what he will grow up to be, who he will be and what he will stand for. My biggest concern for him is whether or not he will stand for Jesus. As with any Christian parent, we want to guide them along life’s path in such a fashion that sooner or later (hopefully sooner) our child or children will confess Jesus as their Savior. How we proceed in parenting will play a huge role in this.
How many of you saw Michael Jordan play basketball? I’m sure most of you have at least heard of him, if not witnessed his dazzling and amazing God-given talents on the basketball court. And among all of his talents, what was he known for the most? It must be those free throw line lift off jumps, tongue wagging in the air, all the way to the hoop… then boom! He drops the hammer and slams it home. Truly amazing to watch. He made the slam dunk a spectacle to be seen, one that would not soon be forgotten. A Michael Jordan slam dunk was a sure bet, or nearly sure anyway…
Now consider a half-court shot. Have you ever tried it? You see highlights of the guy that makes the shot in a contest for $$$, but you rarely see the myriads of folks that don’t even come close to making that shot. It’s hard! I remember one time as a senior in the high school gym, throwing the basketball at the hoop for what seemed an eternity before finally making one. I guess I finally got lucky. Most don’t…
What do we want for our kids? As believers, don’t we want them to try for the slam dunk, instead of the half-court shot? Of course we do! For this to be the case, we must be diligent in our efforts to teach them about God. Really it goes beyond that. We must live our Christian lives every minute of every day. Look at your Bible… specifically, the four gospels. While the crucifixion was a landmark for our salvation, much if not the majority of the gospel accounts show us how Jesus lived His life, and in turn how we are to live our lives. This type of life, along with teaching and praying, will build a strong foundation for our children to grow up to become disciples of Christ.
I cannot end this without one further basketball analogy. I’ll never forget watching Jordan after he returned to basketball from trying his hand at baseball. He goes up for a dunk, to do what he’s done endless times before… and misses. I was shocked. Arguably the greatest player ever misses his trademark dunk? Shocking. But unfortunately, this can happen in basketball, it can happen to the best of them, and it can happen to even the preacher’s kids in the realm of salvation. We cannot make the shot for our kids, they must do it. And it’s sad to say, but even after setting them up for the can’t-miss, high percentage shot, some will in fact miss, and will miss out on eternity with the One they were made for. We can only set a solid foundation for them to start from.
And the half-court shot… it is not a high percentage shot at all, but some do beat the odds, and hear the call of God and respond positively to it. Praise God for that! Some will overcome a hard life as a youth; some will beat the addiction once and for all; some will set aside self and pride and submit to a patient and ever-loving Savior to ensure love to and from Him forever.
So what about you? Have you set your child up for an easy lay-up or a likely dunk, or will they struggle on their own and throw up a prayer from half-court? God has called you to serve Him in the form of Godly, biblical parenting. Hear the call that’s calling you to lead your child to Jesus.