As I was waiting in line to get my hair cut this past weekend, I picked up a recent issue of Sports Illustrated. As I flipped through the pages looking for something interesting to read, I stopped on an article that was discussing the mentorship process of 3 very promising NBA rookies. Each one of these three rookies was playing on a team with a veteran NBA star who was teaching him how to be successful in the NBA. One of these rookie plays for the Los Angeles Lakers alongside one of the greatest players of all time, Kobe Bryant. While discussing the relationship between Kobe and this young rookie, the writer referenced a conversation between the two players that began with the rookie asking Kobe the question of how to have a long and successful NBA career.
Kobe’s answer to this question was incredible. He told this young player that the ones who are great are great because they love game. He said that the ones who put in the time and the effort necessary to be great do so because they just love the game. Kobe even went on to say that those who don’t love it can be great for a few months or even a few years, but eventually they will not put in the effort anymore and fizzle out because they do not truly love the game.
I found Kobe’s answer to be an amazing parallel to our walk with Christ. In John 14, Jesus tells us plainly that those who LOVE Him will be the ones who obey His commands. The bible doesn’t say that by obeying His commands we will learn to love Jesus. It says that our love for Him will result in obedience. The bible also says that we love, because He first loved us (1 John 4: 19). If we take a second to digest this, we will see that an obedient and fruitful life in Christ begins with us receiving His love for us. It begins with experiencing His overpowering, unconditional love. Then, as we begin to realize that He loves us and He is for us, we begin to trust Him. We begin to realize that His commands are not to harm us or hold us back, but the purpose of His commands are to set us free to live a life of purpose with Him. We begin to do things like read the bible, and not because we are obligated, but because we long to know His good, pleasing and perfect will. We begin to do things like tell people about Jesus, simply because we want them to experience the love that has transformed our life. We find ourselves fleeing from sin, and not because we have to, but because we know that it will result in the freedom and life that He designed us for.
Similar to what Kobe was teaching his young protégé about basketball, God is teaching us that everything begins with love. If we are serving Him out of obligation and selfish desire, we will eventually fizzle out. We might still attend church and speak Christianese, but we will lose that fire that enables us to bear real fruit. If we are not serving God because He loves us and we love Him, then we are in trouble. It won’t last. Either we will hit the end of our own strength and stop trying, or we will only do it for selfish reasons that don’t produce the fruit He desires. We can’t properly serve Him out of obligation and duty. We serve God because His love is amazing! We don’t show love to others because we have to, but because God loves us even when we don’t deserve it! We don’t serve God because we must, but because He loves us!
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13: 1-3).