My daughter has a choice of being a cheerleader or playing basketball. Her response: “Why cheer when you can play?” Thus began years of watching her play. Sitting in the bleachers with a laminated “Mom’s Guide to Basketball”, I learned to appreciate the game. I saw my daughter grow and mature as she encouraged players one minute and drive down the court for a basket the next. One of my favorite pictures of her is her basketball picture. She looks so athletic as she stands wearing her uniform, hair in a pony tail and basketball in one hand. Then you notice the shoes. She has lace ruffle socks above those Air Jordan tennis shoes. It symbolized the mixture that is my daughter. Strong and competitive, yet soft and feminine.
The truth is, Jesus made us all a combination. There will be times when we are called to play and times when we are called to cheer. To play means that you have to step off the bench, get out on the court, and be ready to pass the ball, or go down the court for a basket. Other times, we are to be on the sidelines, cheering as the players block, and then go for the three point shot. Paul talks of us being surrounded by a ‘great cloud of witnesses,” those that have gone before us, those that have played the game. He talks of encouraging one another, finishing the race strong.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” (Hebrews 12:1)
The one that cheers is just as important as the one that plays. Most likely the one cheering the loudest is the one who made sure your were registered to play, dressed for the game, made sure you were practiced up and focused. That person made sure you had all the necessary things that prepares the player for the “swish” as the ball goes into the basket. One is not more important than the other. As Christians we are always to be in the game, but there are times when we need to cheer, encourage, support, and assist another to play the game of their life. We are not called to be passive spectators. It is not a time to watch the game as you watch a game on TV. Watching the game on TV is an easy click ‘on’ and click ‘off’ with food in between. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good game on TV. But watching on TV does not require an investment on my part. The player cannot hear your words of encouragement, no matter how loud you yell at the TV. Jesus wants us to be servant leaders who come along side, cheer, and/or if needed be ready to go in and assist. We are called to invest in the game and the players. It means we need to be willing to get out of the comfort zone of passive spectator and move in to the active zone of player or cheerleader.
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve…” (I Peter 5:2, NIV)
The phrase “eager to serve” in the Greek is an adverb which means ” of a ready mind”. It is the only time in the Bible that this particular word is used. To have a ready mind means to be constantly “in the game” whether you are on the court or on the bench. Remember, adverbs describe words. They tell you to what extinct that we are to perform the action. Whether we are playing or cheering we are to do it wholeheartedly. Jesus wants us to be ready to jump into the game to play or jump off the court to cheer. We are called to be that combination of player and cheerleader, not passive spectator.
Are you willing? Are you ready to play? Are you ready to cheer? Are you ready to do both with a whole heart?
Jesus, I pray that you create within me a shepherds heart. One who actively watches over those around me, one who actively tends to them, protects them, guides and instructs not because I must but because I am willing. I pray that I continue to have a ‘ready mind’ that eagerly serves those you place in my life. Amen (I Peter 5:2)