“Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” — John 7:38
More Than Champions, by Randall D. Kittle
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Basketball is the world’s second-most popular sport, with an estimated 450 million followers in countries around the world. Here in the United States, it is highlighted by the annual NCAA tournament … popularly called “March Madness.” Aside from the Super Bowl, it is the most anticipated sporting event in America. This may be because Americans love a “Cinderella story” — when an unexpected team comes out of obscurity and makes a deep run toward the championship. Or perhaps the main reason the tournament is so popular is that it’s the largest single-elimination competition anywhere in the world. In every game, all 67 of them, the losing team is knocked out … they are sent home and their season is over. In a nation that prides itself on second chances, there are none.

Any discussion of the NCAA tournament brings to mind legendary coach John Wooden. During his 27-year coaching career at UCLA, Wooden’s teams had 4 undefeated seasons, won 88 consecutive games, and accumulated an unprecedented 10 NCAA championship titles — giving him more championships than any other college basketball coach in history. Wooden coached a court full of NBA all-stars including: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Gail Goodrich, Walt Hazzard, Marques Johnson, Swen Nater, Sidney Wicks, and Jamal Wilkes. He accomplished all of this and still retired at age 64.

How to Truly Win
Yet, today, John Wooden, who died in 2010, is remembered not just for what he accomplished, but for the person he was. It has been said of him, “As a coach, he had no peers. And he was a better man than he was a coach.” He lived out his Christian faith with genuine concern for others in an environment often obsessed with winning. In his autobiography, They Call Me Coach, he wrote, “I always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior. Until that is done, we are on an aimless course that runs in circles and goes nowhere.”

John Wooden honored God in all he did, and his example challenges us to do the same. As followers of Jesus Christ — the greatest victor in all eternity — we are called to be triumphant ... overcomers ... victors. But we need to remember that God doesn’t need our victories.  He is already the great, victorious One who conquered hell, death and the grave (see 1 Corinthians 15:54–57).

More Than Champions
As believers, we are called to be more than champions. The Bible tells us that, “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). The only true success in life doesn’t depend upon how much money you have in the bank, how much “stuff” you’ve accumulated, or how well known you might be. Money never truly satisfies, things wear out or become outdated, and eventually fame fades and the glory gained loses its luster. As wise Solomon put it, “all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14).

While fame and fortune are temporary, relationship with the Lord is eternal. Only a life not only
given to God but also devoted to Him truly “wins” in the long run. We are called to walk daily with Him and to share His goodness with others. Let us follow Coach Wooden’s example and choose to live changed lives that are in vibrant relationship with our loving Lord. In the light of what Christ has done for us, how can we do any less?

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