It’s March Madness! People all across the country have filled out the NCAA Basketball Tournament brackets. We even have a tournament challenge for a cash prize at my place of employment just like I’m sure so many others do. And just when it appears like I’m doing well, mine and millions of others’ brackets get busted by major upsets. This year was no different. I know mine got jacked up completely! There’s an excitement that still wells up inside of me when I see the elation of a game winning shot or an underdog small college team defeating their Goliath. There are also the feelings of sadness for teams who are ousted, especially for the seniors who realize that they have just played their last collegiate game. Such a range of emotions, but after all, they don’t call it March Madness for nothing.
So where am I going with all of this? Well, it’s funny how even when I’m indulging in escapism from the cares of this world, or allowing my attention to be seriously diverted away from the Lord, He always manages to speak to me regardless. It’s like my ears never quite shut down and I’m able to hear and discern what the Lord is saying. He really can choose any medium or method He desires to speak to all of us. So as I have watched the games and shared in the triumphs and downfalls of the tournament, the Lord has been directing my attention to something unusual and unlikely: the benchwarmers. These are not the players who just aren’t in the starting five but still get regular playing time during the games. I’m talking about the ones whose primary role is to work hard in practice to prepare those who do get on the court during the games. These players might see some playing time for the last few minutes of a game if their team is up by thirty or forty points. However, the reality is that they still have a role.
The Kingdom of God is similar to the basketball team. God is the coach and maybe we can look at pastors, bishops and apostles as assistant coaches or maybe members of the starting five players. We the people are the players on the team and some of us have “starting” type roles. In other words, God has entrusted certain ministries and tasks to people that He ordained. These individuals are supposed to give God all the glory even though they may have various degrees of “visibility” to those around them. Whether it is music artists, major authors or positions of authority, these all tend to represent those who are a part of the starting five. These are the people who are in the forefront and who get to participate more actively in the work of the ministry because they are seen. Just like the players who get playing time, the crowd watches them and cheers them on. The truth is that they bear a great responsibility that cannot be given to just anyone. God, or coach, uses whomever He desires to carry out certain “plays” or assignments. This is based upon pre-ordained destiny and just His overall master plan. He created each of us to fulfill specific assignments. Everybody cannot be a part of the starting five or even come off of the bench. Luke 12:48 says “But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (NKJV) This is a reality that citizens of the Kingdom have no choice but to embrace. We must know that we will only be truly successful in the spirit realm when we are doing the will of God and not trying to play in someone else’s position. Everybody can’t be in the forefront and wasn’t designed for such.
So back to the tournament games, what I kept noticing was that the benchwarmers expressed just as much emotion in the triumphs and defeats as the starters, and in some cases even more. What the Lord was demonstrating is that when we are all UNITED for a common cause, we share in the victories and defeats, no matter the role that we play. We all should have the desire to see the Kingdom of God manifested in the earth and we should desire to be people reconciled back to the Father. Selfish desires, ambitions and the need to be affirmed by men have no place in the Kingdom. I admire that those benchwarmers were NOT ASHAMED and not full of pride that would prevent them from fulfilling their role. They were comfortable and secure in their identity, and did not operate in a spirit of rebellion and/or resentment. The truth is that no matter the sport, the most successful teams usually have very supportive benches. I’m sure you are getting where I’m going with all of this.
So if you are someone who appears to be on the bench I pray that you will seek after Him like never before if you are struggling with patience or contentment. Unfortunately, our flesh tells us that if we are not visible then we are not valuable. I Corinthians 12, starting at verse 12 talks about the body being unified and functioning together as one, and that one part is no more important than the other. I encourage all to read that passage as a reminder that in the Kingdom we are all on the same team. Our treasures in heaven will NOT be determined by visibility or being a part of the starting five. They will come from doing His exact will for our lives and believing that there are no insignificant assignments.
There is light at the end of the tunnel. You won’t always be on the bench. Just like some of the benchwarmers, you may just find your way into the starting five in the future or at least begin coming off of the bench. God is likely forming your character before He decides to use you at a greater level. Coaches are the same way. They are constantly assessing their players and often times; some benchwarmers develop their game and character where the coach decides to use them. Sometimes they work themselves into the starting five after the couple of years of development, and others at least become good enough to come off of the bench. However, some benchwarmers remain in their position because they have contentment and are not majoring in the minors. They were designed to work hard in practice and motivate their teammates. Some individuals in the Kingdom will be comfortable being behind the scenes or even being a gatekeeper and will have a peace that surpasses all understanding. Their willingness to die to themselves will pay them eternal dividends. But there are also benchwarmers who possess an extraordinary ability like quickness, and the coach reserves them for crucial situations that may determine whether or not the team wins the game. It may be a little bit of a rarity that they get playing time, but they were made for “crunch time.” Some of you are the same way. You are specialists. God desires for you to seek His Kingdom and righteousness first, so that you will be ready for the season when He calls for you because you are a secret weapon. He has not forgotten you and know that His plan is the very best for you. We cannot be affirmed by being one of the starting five. The only real satisfaction and affirmation comes from resting in the arms of the Head Coach: The Heavenly Father.
Nathan Allen Copyright ©2012