1 Corinthians 9:24-25
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?Runin such a way as to get the prize.Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crownthat will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
The end has finally arrived. Not only that, but it has come and gone. I don’t think I was prepared for it. Not that I didn’t have ample time to prepare, I just don’t know if you can prepare for something this life changing. This loss will not only affect me, but will have an impact on millions. If you haven’t realized by now (and you skipped the title), I am referring to the retirement of the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), Kobe Bryant. The Black Mamba has played 20 years in the league so I literally grew up watching him go from high school to NBA first round draft pick to five-time NBA champion. His accomplishments over his 20 years are incredible. Outside of the five championships, Kobe has 18 all-star appearances, 833 career wins, an NBA MVP trophy, 9 first-team all-defense selections, is third on the all-time scoring list, is the only player to play for 20 seasons with one team, and the list can continue to go on and on. Those who have spent any significant time with me know that I refer to Kobe on a regular basis. And, fun fact, even attempted to name my son Kobe (didn’t fly with Abbey). However, to the surprise of some, I will refer to him not only when discussing basketball, but also in the context of ministry and my Christian faith.
Why this may surprise people is because though Kobe is considered one of the greatest on the basketball court, his life has been marred with several questionable decisions. He has, on several occasions, been known to drive people away with his arrogant and demanding demeanor, he has had multiple clashes with teammates, and maybe the most incriminating to the Black Mamba was a sexual assault charge brought against him by a 19 year-old hotel employee.
As someone who has served in ministry to young people for almost a decade, I realize the impact role models have on the minds of our youth. They begin to worship their teen idols and start to live their life to look like the culture their idol lives in. So with that knowledge, it is a legitimate question to wonder why I would hold Kobe Bryant, the confirmed adulterer/pride-filled, non-forgiving basketball player as an example. I even questioned myself at times about the legitimacy of using him as a positive example. Then, in his last game in which he not only scored 60 points, but brought his team the victory, I realized why I am so drawn to Kobe.
The apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth, talks about running a race. He challenges the struggling church in Corinth by not coddling them, but telling them that it is going to take hard work. It is going to take sacrifice, patience, endurance, and the intention of your entire being to live the life God has called us to. When I read verses like the one quoted above and others like it, I use Kobe as an example because he demonstrates the meaning of Paul’s command so clearly. There is an important distinction that I am always careful to make when referencing Kobe, which is that Kobe has felt that his purpose is to play the best basketball and our primary purpose as Christians is to love God and others.
But, his commitment to his calling puts our level of commitment to shame. If we as Christians were as committed to loving others (what God has called us to) as Kobe was to his career as a basketball player, I believe this world would look very different. What if we put in the same hours, training, intensity, thoughtfulness, and single minded focus into living a life that pleases God? I know that, like Kobe, my life would begin to bear the fruit of this hard work and focus. So let’s take a page from the Mamba and “run in such a way as to get the prize!” - Pastor Andrew Nishimoto