When I think of the community I live in, I am reminded of a famous Allen Iverson interview. After being eliminated from the NBA playoffs, Iverson was asked about practice, to which he responded, “We talking about practice. I mean, listen, we talking about practice. Not a game! Not a game. Not a game. We talking about practice. Not a game…”
Practice is training. It is a time for preparation, but it is not the game. There is a place for practice. Even Allen Iverson will admit that. However, practice is not the game. Practice is preparation for the game.
Christians love practice. I live in a community where believers love to hear the Bible taught. We brag about the great teaching at our Bible studies, share how we get fed at our church (or don’t), and we love to learn new books of the Bible. We talk a lot about our training.
Let’s be clear though, we are talking about practice. The game happens when we go out and do what we have been trained to do (James 1:22).
Why do Christians love to talk so much about practice? Maybe it is a genuine love for God’s Word. Maybe it is a love for Jesus. Perhaps it is a recharge for those who are in the game. But if we are short on actually doing what we learn, maybe it is because we are overwhelmed by the impossibility of the commands. If we talk a lot about making disciples, memorize the verses, know what the words mean, and understand the historical background, but we don’t actually make any disciples, then we are just talking about practice! Not the game!
Maybe we are overwhelmed that we aren’t just to teach people to know everything Jesus commanded, but we are to teach them to obey (Matthew 28:19-20). That is overwhelming. That is not possible. How can we get someone else to obey?
Maybe it’s because we doubt ourselves, our talents and our knowledge. Maybe it’s because we realize the commands are too hard for us to keep and therefore, we resort to simply memorizing them rather than doing them. Maybe we resort to simply hearing them and being fed. Somehow, we avoid actually doing them.
It makes me think of the famous quote from President Theodore Roosevelt,
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
So how can we actually obey these impossible commands? How can we be in the game?
By trusting the One who has commissioned us.
The One with all authority in heaven and earth. It is through His power and because of His presence. The One who goes with us to all places throughout all the ages (Matthew 28:20). He desires to do a work in us that requires faith.
It does not require faith to stay in the confines of things we can control. It does not require faith to obey only the commands we know we can keep. We are commanded to do the impossible. That requires faith. Without faith, you never get in the game.
Are you in the game or do you just enjoy practice?
My personal favorite version of Allen Iverson’s practice interview: