When Buzzer Beaters Work

The month of March, as far as college basketball is concerned, has been known as “March Madness,” named after the NCAA Division 1 basketball tournament. Sixty-eight teams will play a total of 67 games in a span of three weeks. Millions of people fill out a bracket, in hopes of predicting this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion.

With sixty-eight teams participating in this tournament, you automatically have 68 different plots, some more interesting than others. As these plots unfold, America begins to gravitate towards the underdog. The “Big Dance,” which is another nickname for the tournament, will at times reveal a “Cinderella” team – a team that will come out of nowhere and start defeating favored teams.

What often makes these “Cinderella” team wins more special is that they will come, at times, on a last second shot.

An unlikely hero emerges as he hoists a shot that seems doubtful to go in. As the ball swishes through the net, the crowd erupts in jubilation. The team swarms the court, some fans make their way towards the players from the stands, the sportscaster attempts to put into words what he just witnessed. All this because of one of the most exciting moments in one of the most exciting events in American sports – the buzzer beater!

As a former basketball player, I dreamed of making that buzzer beating shot. I practiced often (and you did, too) making that shot as you or a friend counted down, “three, two, one, eeeeeeeeh! (how do you put down on paper a buzzer sound?) As when we sink the shot (after 20 attempts or so), we pretend to bask in the crowd’s applause, lifting our team to victory. What a feeling!

As exciting as buzzer beater can be, someone still has to lose. Often it’s the team that played well, executed their plays for 99 percent of the game, only to let it slip away in the closing moments. It does’t seem fair. But that’s the thrill of buzzer beaters; it’s not commonplace and it doesn’t happen everyday to the same team. Otherwise it would lose it’s appeal and we wouldn’t even be talking about it, airing it on Sportscenter, or even writing about it. It is an exception and not the rule.

Likewise, buzzer beater moments in life can be exciting. The life that seems headed for destruction gets a merciful touch from the hand of God. That person who was so steeped in sin transformed by God’s grace. Surely it makes for an amazing testimony.

But as my coach used to always tell us, “Why wait until the last second to win the game? Win it now. Dominate now. End it now.”

To those of us entrusted by God with the care of children – whether as a parent, a pastor, a teacher, a leader – why wait until the last second to make a person a winner? Why wait until they are shackled by sin to offer a helping hand? Why wait to mentor when Satan wants to mangle their lives now?

The Bible is filled with instructions about training children. From Deuteronomy 6 to Proverbs 22 to Ephesians 6, God commands us to capture the hearts of our children, to give them wisdom, to teach the about Christ and His Word. It’s good for them! This doesn’t mean we turn our backs on adults who need biblical training but a quote I read this week summed it best, “It’s easier to build boys and girls than to repair men and women.”

The average child, according to a survey conducted by Barna, accepts the Lord Jesus Christ between the ages of 5 and 9. They memorize the best between 6 months to 5 years old. Their impression years are the years they are under your supervision and care. This is the best time to win the game. Now is the time to put in the work.

You can hope and pray for a buzzer beater and certainly God’s grace is sufficient. But remember, sometimes that ball doesn’t go through the hoop and what you’re left with is a life ruined, broken, and at times useless.

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