In my younger days, I was an athlete. I won several state bowling titles and always seemed to hit a baseball better than my peers. When it came to basketball, I was born too early, the three-point line was still a thing of the future, but I was a terror from twenty-plus feet. However, I was a huge liability on defense. The football coaches at school would come and try to get me on the team, but my mom was overprotective in that department.
Whenever there was free time in practice, we all tried to accomplish the spectacular. Hitting the ball over the fence, making the half-court shot, or throwing the eighty-yard touchdown pass was everyone’s goal.
One day a few of us were out on the court early before basketball practice. We were all heaving shots from half-court. When the coach arrived, he asked us, “Why aren’t you guys practicing layups or free throws?”
One of my teammates replied, “Layups are easy, but making a shot from out here is awesome!” We spent the next hour doing layup drills.
The point coach was trying to make is that we need to get the basics down.
Years later, I took this idea to the baseball diamond when I started coaching baseball. If you have seen a group of ten-year-olds play baseball, you have seen them all. There is usually one child on each team that can hit a fly ball out of the infield. With the rest, hitting the ball is still a challenge. However, fielding and especially throwing looks like a circus. I had parents upset with me because for the first week in practice, all I did was teach the youngsters the proper way to throw a baseball – the positioning of the feet in relation to the target, arm movement, grip, and follow-through.
I cannot count the times I heard, “We’ll will never win a game, if they do not know how to hit!”
We won our first game 13-1. Why? They hardly got anyone on base; we kept throwing them out. Their one run came from their one kid who could hit it out of the infield – he did.
As the season progressed, we continued to improve in all areas. Throwing the ball became part of practice instead of all of it. As the basics improved, the spectacular came. Not because of luck, but because the spectacular was now an extension of the basics.
You may be wondering by now, “Is this a column on God and religion, or an article about coaching youth sports?”
All the preceding was said to make a point – Christians, we need to get the basics down. Just like many in Jesus’ day, they wanted to see a miracle; they wanted to witness something spectacular. An excellent example of this wanting of the miraculous is in John 6. The crowd witnessing Jesus feed five thousand-plus people with one boy’s lunch: the following day, they asked for a sign that would make them believe Him (John 6:30). Feeding thousands with one sack lunch was not enough; show us something really astonishing!
The essential truth of Christianity is that Jesus is God in the flesh. This truth is so vital that God tells us that whether or not someone believes that Christ came in the flesh is the determining factor on whether they are of God or not (1 John 4:1-3).
Another pillar of Christianity is the virgin birth. Without the virgin birth, Jesus Christ cannot be God. If He has an earthly, biological father, like the rest of us, then He is like the rest of us. He then would not be God, He would be a sinner because we are all sinners, and His crucifixion is nothing more than a martyr’s death. His blood could not save anyone.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is another fundamental truth of Christianity. Jesus is not the only one resurrected in the scripture. However, He is the only one who resurrects Himself. Peter, John, nor any other person came to Jesus’ tomb and cried, “Jesus come forth!” No, the ground shook, the stone rolled away, a tremendous light shined, and Jesus walked away from the tomb. Jesus is the life. He is all life, both physical and spiritual. No life comes from anywhere but Him.
Jesus and Jesus alone gives us victory over the grave. 1 Corinthians 15:53-54, “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.”
More Christian fundamentals – prayer, Bible reading, Bible study, church attendance, telling people the gospel, and knowing what you believe and why you believe it.
Many Christians have left the basics listed above. This trend is disastrous to the cause of Christ. Psalms 11:3, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
Stop trying to make spiritual half-court shots; work on your layups.
Preacher Tim Johnson is Pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Indiana. His weekly column “Preacher’s Point” may be found at: www.preacherspoint.wordpress.com