Rise to the Occasion

“Rise to the Occasion.” That’s what the final four men’s and women’s basketball team warm-up jerseys said. It’s a good motto for Christians too!

The “Rise to the Occasion” motto was a fitting theme for the conclusion of March Madness. And the players did.

The Associated Press described the run-up to the championship game: “Louisville had already pulled off a stunning rally in the Big East championship game—down by 16 in the second half, they won by 17—and another against Wichita State.”

They had to step up again in an epic game in Atlanta in the finals. In the men’s final basketball game, the AP report continues, “Michigan got a boost from an … unlikely player. Freshman Spike Albrecht made four straight [three-point shots] from beyond the arc, … blowing by his career high before the break with 17 points. Coming [into this game], Albrecht was averaging 1.8 points a game and had not scored more than seven all season.”

He stepped up to the occasion.

Then with Louisville down by 12 points with three minutes left in the first half, Luke Hancock came off the bench to hit four straight three-pointers.

He produced a huge game off the bench, scoring 22 points. In the second half, “Hancock finished what he started for Louisville. He made it 5-for-5 when he hit his final 3 from the corner with 3:20 remaining to give the Cardinals their biggest lead, 76-66. Michigan wouldn’t go away, but Hancock wrapped it up by making two free throws with 29 seconds left” (http://scores.espn.go.com/ncb/recap?gameId=330980097).

Will we rise to the occasion?

It was exciting basketball for all of us viewers! But the more important question is, Will we rise to the occasion when we face challenges in our Christian lives?

Consider the night Jesus was betrayed and crucified. All of the disciples fled, and Peter even denied Christ three times. But what happened after they received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost? They rose to the occasion to do God’s will in spite of dangers and even martyrdom.

The Bible only mentions the deaths of two of the original 12 disciples, James and Judas Iscariot. But tradition tells us that many of the early Christians suffered terrible martyrdom.

How did the early Christians get the power to endure such trials? It is the power that comes from faith in God. The Bible tells us, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

How can we grow in faith? The Life, Hope & Truth article “What Is Faith?” says:

“Faith is increased by drawing closer to God through prayer and the study of His Word, the Bible. Paul told the Philippians to ‘be anxious for nothing [don’t worry], but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7). They believed God’s Word, and they obeyed His commandments. As they listened and followed Paul’s instruction on giving their cares to God in believing prayer, their faith (belief and trust) was increased.”

Practicing faith

So let’s go back to the basketball example. How do the bench players get better? They practice every day against the starting players. They have to work hard, or some else will take their place. They need to work hard to help the starting players stay sharp and improve.

Good teams use the biblical principle of iron sharpening iron. Players don’t automatically pick up basketball skills. Good teams practice the fundamentals and use repetition, repetition and repetition.

How well do you know the fundamentals? Do you know the fundamental teachings of the Bible? Could you prove them? We must not be guilty of just sitting on the bench and not practicing.

Are you ready to rise to the occasion? It will take faith. Faith comes through repetition of prayer and Bible study. You cannot get it at the last minute, just like the five foolish virgins couldn’t get their lamps filled right before the bridegroom was to come (Matthew 25:1-13).

Faith in action

Living faith is not just believing that God exists; it is putting that belief into action. The championship basketball players don’t just think they can play ball. They practice.

God will increase our faith if we fervently ask Him for it and seek to draw closer to Him in prayer and the reading of His Word. Then we must demonstrate our faith by service to others and obedience to God. By doing this, we can rise to the occasion.

Read more in the article “What Is Faith?”

About the Author

Tom Moffitt

Tom Moffitt is a member of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.