March Madness

One of the great diseases of our day is trifling.  The things with which most people spend most of their time are trivial.  And what makes this a disease is that we were meant to live for magnificent causes.  None of us is really content with the trivial pursuits of the world.  Our souls will not be satisfied with trifles.  Why is there a whole section of the newspaper devoted to sports and almost nothing devoted to the greatest story in the universe–the growth and spread of the church of Jesus Christ?  It is madness that insignificant games should occupy such a central role in our culture compated to the work of God in Christ.  (John Piper, A Sweet & Bitter Providence, 120).

Growing up as a basketball fanatic, March was my favorite month.  “One Shining Moment” was my favorite song.  And many were the days that I day-dreamed of playing college basketball and going to the ‘Big Dance.’ 

Today if you go to my boyhood home, you can find cases of VCR-recorded tapes of college basketball games.  Duke vs Kansas (1991) and  Duke vs Michigan (1992) come to mind right now–yes, I was a Duke fan.  In short, in those days I lived for basketball! 

But in the mercy and providence of God, He showed me in high school that being a success on the basketball court was not entirely satisfying.  In fact, it was altogether depressing.  Despite any relative accomplishments that came on the hardwood, I was always left empty.  What I didn’t know then, but have come to learn is that this is how idols always work (Ps 115).  They promise great things and deliver very little.  They take and take and take and offer diminishing returns.   They take the God-given and good desire to worship, to adore, and to devote our lives to something and they put before our hearts and minds an object unworthy of our worship.  Indeed idolatry is trifling and maddening.

In my life basketball was an idol.  And each year in the month of March, I am reminded of my past, and I am thankful that God delivered me from my enslavement to a game.  With Paul in 1 Corinthians 6, I agree and affirm in my life:  “Do not be deceived: …. idolaters…will [not] inherit the kingdom of God.”  Yet, he goes on to say, “And such were some of you.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Today, I am just as prone to idolatry because of the sinfulness of my heart and the temptations of the evil one.  I believe that my heart is an idol-making factory, and that apart from the overpowering grace of god  I would clutter my life banal and joy-depleting things.  I am tempted to trifle with so many things–even this very blog!  And yet, the Word of God calls us to reject trifling and to live for the imitable glory of God in the face of Christ and the upbuilding of his kingdom. 

This weekend marks one of the largest Final Fours in history, with 71,000+ fans filling Lucas Oil Stadium and millions more crowding around HDTV’s in bars, homes, and student unions.  As they do, I pray that they, and you and me too, will see the madness of march as it truly is, that it is spiritual insanity that leads people to care more about one shining moment than an eternity of light and love.  This weekend we will see three heart-broken schools and one temporary victor, but for those anchored by joy in Jesus Christ, victory is eternally secure, and win or lose in the trifles of life, all of them pale in comparison to the eternal weight of glory promised for those who have the Son, the one who we must remember does more than put a leather ball through an iron hoop, Jesus Christ rules with a rod of iron and gives unspeakable joy to all those who ask. 

Soli Deo Gloria, dss