As we chatted back and forth about bygone days, he reminded me of an episode that had occurred in high school. It had to do with learning to make God one’s highest priority in life.
A little background information is in order. When I was in school, I really did not care all that much for football; but I absolutely loved basketball. And yet, the irony was that I could easily make the football team; but I could not make the basketball team - no matter how hard I tried.
Two years running, in the eighth and ninth grade, I made the football team; but, in both of those two years, and again in the tenth grade, I was among the last ones cut from the basketball team during tryouts. By contrast, my friend, Doug, was not a football player. But he was an exceptional basketball player. If memory serves me correctly, he was the starting point guard in both seventh and eighth grades, and also for the junior varsity team in the ninth grade.
In our conversation, Doug reminded me of that fateful day back in the tenth grade when he had told me after school that he had just gotten cut from the basketball team. At the time, I had not believed him. I thought he was joking, until he left to go home and I went on to practice. Coach Adams strung me along for a few more weeks, and then cut me as well, just before the season started.
What Doug shared with me was how that whole event went on to serve as such a pivotal point in his relationship with God. By his own admission, basketball had become an idol for him. For this reason, Doug now clearly sees that God took it away from him in order that He (God) might draw Doug into a closer relationship with Him.
Doug went on to accomplish some wonderful things. He was either the Valedictorian or Salutatorian of our graduating class - I cannot remember which. Among other things, he also went on to graduate from the United States Naval Academy and then to fly fighter jets off of aircraft carriers! He has had a full and wonderful life in service to his fellow man, and now serves as an Elder in his church.
Giving up basketball was a tough thing for Doug - especially from his perspective at the time as a tenth grader whose world had hitherto revolved around it. But Doug’s testimony proves that when we place anything above God, He will invariably require that we give it up for Him! And yet, anytime we undertake such a sacrifice, we win in the long run. It may not be so easy to see at the time; but viewed in retrospect, we almost always see what God had in mind.
As a pastor, there have been many times than in my life when I have had to give things up to serve the Lord. Even now, He still asks sacrifices of me. But whenever this happens, I have learned to trust that God simply has something better in store for me.
What about you? Has God ever asked you to give something up for Him? Could it be that He is asking this of you even now? If so, then what will you do? Even if it is painful, I encourage you to make the sacrifice. In the long run, you will very likely be glad you did. Just ask Doug!