As we push aside the NBA regular season, the stars will be on display in the drama of the playoffs. Just last night, Chris Paul of the LA Clippers beat the buzzer to put the Grizzlies down 0-2 in their first round series (view Chris Paul’s Winning Shot). It’s easy to think that plays like this are just a result of the superior talent of players like Paul, but when you take a closer look, you find that it doesn’t just simply happen. To be able to shine in the pressure of the playoff spotlight after a long, grueling season, NBA players must condition and train at a level in the off-season that far exceeds what most of us can imagine. The hard work required reminds us of another kind of hard work that each of us must choose in our personal lives as well – the hard work of forgiveness.
BASKETBALL – Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard!
Here’s a video from Alan Stein, a well-known performance consultant, that reminds us of the hard work required to perform and succeed in the NBA playoffs:
Those are some great reminders for players of any level!
1. Working hard is only effective when you work hard, smart, AND consistently.
2. Working hard requires you to get out of your comfort zone.
3. Working hard must become a habit.
4. Working hard is a conscious choice.
LIFE – Forgiveness is hard work!
After first watching the Hard Work video, I got to be a proud parent and watch my daughter perform in her first high school musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It’s the Broadway version of the real-life soap opera of Joseph from the Old Testament. As you listen to the fun, glitzy songs you realize the incredibly hard work Joseph did to forgive his jealous brothers who had faked his death and sold him to be a slave. You can read all about it in Genesis 37-50. The point is, forgiveness is hard work. It doesn’t come easily.
Think about all of the frustration, bitterness, and pain that we have in life when we fail to do the behind-the-scenes work of forgiveness. It can be big things, like unfair treatment in a job, unfaithfulness in marriage, and the evil events in Boston last week, or it can be small like a nagging spouse, an inconsiderate person in a theater, or an inattentive student. Pastor Charles Stanley says that failing to address the hurts done to us is like grabbing a rattlesnake and it’s going to bite you and its going to leave a poison with far-reaching results. That’s why we need to do the hard work.
Try this – take the four points from the Hard Work video and replace “hard work” with “Forgiveness”
1. Forgiveness is only effective when you forgive, smart, AND consistently.
2. Forgiveness requires you to get out of your comfort zone.
3. Forgiveness must become a habit.
4. Forgiveness is a conscious choice.
Basketball players know that they need to work hard, but most fail to do so. Most of us know we need to learn to forgive – in fact several Gallup polls suggest that 94% of Americans feel we should aspire to forgive, but many of us fail to do it. Those same polls indicate that only 48% of us even “try” to forgive. Why? It’s hard work. Like training, it’s a process. It doesn’t happen in a moment. And, it’s a choice.
FAITH – So, why forgive if it’s so hard?
Aside from the rattlesnake reference about the poison of bitterness that builds up in life when we fail to do the hard work of forgiveness, there’s a more impactful purpose for forgiveness.
I’m fascinated and inspired by the work of C. S. Lewis. In fact, The Wisdom of C.S. Lewis captures some of his views on forgiveness when he wrote:
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single person great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life — to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son — how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say our prayers each night “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.” We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves.” C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, “On Forgiveness”
Why should we work hard to forgive? Because Christ forgives us.