When I was boy I spent countless hours shooting baskets in my backyard. I liked to imagine that my team was behind by one point in the last seconds and I had the ball in my hands. I’d dribble, spin away from a defender, and shoot from twenty feet out. Time expired and the final buzzer sounded as the ball was spinning in the air…
Swish! I made it!! We won!!!
As I dribbled around and shot basket after basket I had a crazy fun fantasy that I’d be discovered by a professional basketball scout and would be drafted to play for the Chicago Bulls in the NBA!
My Big Chance to Win the Game
One day in high school I found myself playing in a real game in front of a crowd with a chance to realize my dream. Let me describe the action…
Our team is down by one point and the game is almost over. We’re on defense. I jump and grab the rebound with four seconds left. I turn and dribble as fast as I can toward our basket. I pull up just beyond the left side of the free throw lane and put up a jump shot. The final buzzer sounds as the ball is spinning in the air…
Swish! I made it!! We won!!!
I’m jumping up and down and pumping my fist in the air! The crowd, including my dad, is erupting in cheers and joins my teammates in rushing onto the court to mob me in excitement.
My dream came true! I was the hero!
The Real Winning Shot
I was the hero that night because I made the winning shot. That kind of success was what I lived for in my sports endeavors, school work, jobs, and everything I did earlier in my life. But did I really make the winning shot?
My basketball success was short-lived. I didn’t even play on a college basketball team, let alone a professional team. Besides, basketball is just a game. Win or lose, at the end of the day it leaves you empty.
Later in high school I was trying to sort all this out and I wrote a paper on True Success. I researched examples of success in our world, including the story of Solomon, the most successful man who ever lived. He learned by experience that achievement, fame, fortune, and entertainments were all like “chasing after the wind.” What mattered in life? Just one thing: “Fear God and keep his commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
Love your Neighbor to Jesus
The way Jesus described Solomon’s concluding wisdom was, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength… [and] ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:30-31)
In other words, love Jesus. Jesus Christ connects us with God and our neighbor (whoever happens to be within reach). Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of Man. Oh, that I would love Jesus more! Oh, that you would love Jesus more!
That is the winning shot!
Rarely in our world do crowds of people applaud the love of God and neighbor, but all of heaven does! The Society of Heaven knows that there is nothing more beautiful and wonderful than Jesus Christ being manifest when one person shares God’s love with another.
Does Knowing Me Draw Others Closer to Jesus?
Recently Kristi hosted a 50th Birthday celebration for me with family and friends. It was a unique and most blessed party! Everyone shared stories to answer the question, “How have you been drawn closer to Jesus through knowing Bill?” We celebrated Jesus, not Bill.
One person said, “My heart was warmed for Jesus when I came over to your house to have lunch with Kristi and I saw you out in the garden praying.”
Another recalled, “When I met you at a class you were teaching I was intimidated. But the next week you came to my table. You smiled and called me by name. You asked how I was doing and you listened. I felt the love of Christ.”
A pastor that I partner with explained, “Bill, you draw us to Christ because you’re tough on yourself with the spiritual disciplines you practice, but you always extend grace to us!”
A business leader pleaded with me, “Keep setting aside time to go into solitude and silence to abide in Jesus. You’re doing that for us. I’m learning from you and when I’m with you it helps me to see Jesus.”
A friend spoke what many people tell me, “When you’re vulnerable about your struggles and how you’re reaching out to the Lord it helps me so much.”
It was the most affirming, humbling, and prayerful hour of my life!
As I listened I smiled my thanks to the Lord for the blessing of each person and I kept praying, “O Father, by your Spirit of grace let these words be more true of me. Let Jesus be manifest in me. Strengthen me to always be a servant leader who shares your love with my neighbors.”
What does it look like practically to love your neighbor? Here’s a list of questions I ask myself: “Do You Love Your Neighbor?”