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FIRST-PERSON: Will LeBron James win?

GARRETTSVILLE, Ohio (BP)–LeBron James is leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers in order to become a bigger winner. I wonder what will constitute a big enough win.

Having the best record in the NBA hasn’t been enough. To be popular hasn’t been enough. To be rich beyond the wildest dreams hasn’t been enough. Will winning the NBA championship be enough?

Then I think about myself. What success will make me feel validated? What accomplishment will satisfy my yearning to achieve? This morning I wasn’t sure I could answer those questions. This afternoon God has helped me focus a little more clearly.

Visits from two men have shown me what would be the ultimate win. Both entered my office with questions. The first wanted help knowing how to save his marriage. The second desired to know ways to grow in his ability to communicate his faith and his love to his wife and kids. Every time I can help a man succeed in properly caring for his family I have experienced a win.

I have had what the world might consider mixed results in my career. God graciously allowed me to be chosen the pastor of a small rural church. Eleven years later I pastor a good but still small church. I think I understand how LeBron feels. There have been a lot of good things that have happened but it just doesn’t feel like we’ve won it all. There is an elusive championship (in the world’s eyes) that I have not been able to rally those around me to obtain.

The difference between LeBron and me is my success or failure won’t be determined by a survey of my career statistics. What will count will be the quality and depth of my relationship with Jesus Christ. My obedience in fulfilling my calling to be a disciple who makes disciples who can make disciples is the measure that will determine my success. I don’t have to settle for a corruptible crown. I claim a prize that will still have meaning in eternity.

LeBron seems to be seeking to have the world see him as a great champion. I seek to have the One who has won to declare me a winner. So right where I am I pursue the calling to urge men to “love your wives; even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). I want to model, teach and train men to understand how to raise their children without provoking them to anger but “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the word.” (Ephesians 6:4).

Until LeBron James gives his heart to Jesus he can never hope to know the thrill of victory that comes from expecting to hear “well done my good and faithful servant, enter ye the joy of the Lord.” I am convinced James will have a great career as a basketball player. Yes, he has disappointed all those in Northeast Ohio who had dreamed of a championship, although it would mean little in eternity. He certainly knows the game of basketball; I pray he will someday excel at the game of life.

For those in Ohio who put their hopes and dreams in LeBron James, I pray they will reconsider. He has been chasing a lesser dream. Let us “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14). Sure, basketball, football and all the other sports can be fun. But they do not determine a true winner. A true champion is the one who fulfills his or her calling from God.

David Gray is pastor of First Baptist Church in Garrettsville, Ohio, located about 35 miles from Akron, LeBronís hometown, and 45 miles from Cleveland. Gray is a former president of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.

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  • David Gray