53-5. This was the won/loss record of the Bartlesville High School Bruins from 1990-1992 . . . a two year run which yielded two state titles for the boys in two shades of blue. I have often thanked my parents for having me at the right time. Bartlesville has only won three state titles in the history of Bartlesville High School. These three titles came my Freshman, Junior, and Senior Season. I would like to tell you that we won these titles because I averaged a triple double four straight seasons, but a bluff that big belongs only in a low stakes poker game. The reality is I was blessed to grow up among some of the best athletes in the state of Oklahoma for our age group. On top of that, we had a coach who taught us how to win. In fact, he expected that we would win. We all did.
Winning, as it turns out, is not just something that we are born knowing how to do. Winning is a mindset developed over years of success. Our coach knew that, and so he designed every practice, every drill, every moment we were together as a team, to teach us how to win. In practice, we never just killed time. We never just did a drill for 15 minutes, then moved on to the next one. Every drill we did, we had a clear objective that we were trying to accomplish. The drill would be over, once we accomplished that objective. Instead of just shooting free throws for 10 minutes, we would shoot free throws until we made 20 in a row. We did not just scrimmage for one quarter, the first team started the scrimmage down 15 points with 8 minutes to go, and were expected to win the quarter . . . or we would play it over again. We did not just run “suicide sprints,” we had to run them in a certain time frame. Our coach did not just want us to practice shooting a basketball, he wanted us to practice making the shot.
In many ways, my high school coach knew the axiom my seminary professor Howard Hendricks once told me, “Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent.” Rather than go through the motions and develop bad habits, our coach corrected us and made us do things right so we would be winners.
I thought of this truth the other day as I read Revelation 2-3. In these two chapters, Jesus records personal letters to 7 individual churches in 92 AD. These seven churches had been in existence for many years now. In fact, by the time the book of Revelation is written, some 60 years had passed since Jesus’ ascension into heaven. These 60 years were enough time for a second generation of Christians to be born and raised. In a sense, by the time the book of Revelation is written, there were actually people who were “raised in a Christian home” . . . the first set of people who could ever make that claim. To these churches, Jesus writes personal letters because over these 60 years of existence, the churches had experienced many things and no doubt were beginning to develop their own sets of patterns and habits. Some of the things these churches were doing were good. Other things they were doing were bad. Therefore, Jesus writes them letters to point these strengths and weaknesses out. He does this, I believe, because He does not just want the church to exist, He wants it to thrive! Jesus knew that practice makes permanent, so He wanted to make sure His churches were practicing the right things. Jesus is the Lord of the church, but in some ways, He is also the Coach of the church.
Stop for a moment and think about the implications of Revelation 2-3 and the letters that Jesus wrote to the churches. He writes these letters because He cares. He cares about how we live out our lives here and now. He wants us to live out the life He created us for, not just take up space and time on the planet. If you have time, read these two chapters some time this week. In the context of those letters, you will see who Jesus is, what He cares about, and be challenged to practice the right things in the Christian life. Winning in life seems far more complicated than winning a state title, however, isn’t it awesome that our Coach loves us enough to direct us towards the victorious life?