Since 1980, I’ve been a huge fan of the Winter Olympics. That’s the year when most of us were asked by Al Michaels “Do You Believe in Miracles?” As far as great moments in sports, the upset of the Soviets by the U.S. men’s hockey team remains at the top of list and for many of my generation, it not only stirred our national pride, but created at least an every four-year fascination with the sport.
And so I found myself up at 6:30 am last Saturday to watch this year’s edition of USA vs. Russia, checking the score on my tablet throughout the morning, and then hearing the same question, “Do you believe in miracles?” It’s an easy to answer “yes, ” but do you really believe in miracles?
BASKETBALL – Hoop Miracles
Before you think I’m changing allegiances, I enjoy hockey, but my life is still focused on basketball, where miracles happen all the time. At Concordia Wisconsin we witnessed an amazing player by the name of Luke Doedens who helped lead our team to an undefeated conference season and the NCAA Tournament in 2011. As a senior, Luke treated us to some miracle finishes like this:
and then about one week later he did this:
Miracle finishes? Yes, but were they really miracles? I’ve seen Luke make all sorts of shots in practice and after practice. It was absolutely no surprise to anyone when he made those shots. He was talented, competitive, and a player who worked on big shots – just like the U.S. Hockey team. A miracle win? Yes, but it took effort, united play, and a system implemented by a visionary coach. In sports, we see those miracles all the time.
Greater miracles occur though when, you look behind the scenes. For us, Luke was a player who came back home to play after earning a Division II scholarship. He was a player who dealt with some personal challenges and took responsibility for his life. As I see him now, I see the miracle of growth and maturity that it is part of his life. I’ll remember the miracle shots, but I also see Luke’s strength of character.
LIFE – Miracles happen all around us.
Many of us have confused what constitutes a miracle. We tend to use it as a term for unexpected things that happen that can’t be explained, and usually when the outcome affects us. When it happens to other people, we use words like luck or fortune. While unexpected, game-winning shots and dramatic upsets are usually the result of identifiable factors, the true miracles of this world have no human explanation. Look around you and see the miracle of life! When you become a parent for the first time, and every other time, you realize that no random luck or chance can explain the miracle of life. When you consider the awe-inspiring beauty of the earth and you observe the intricate principles of science in our world, no worldly explanations are adequate. Look further and see the miracles of changed lives when people deal with enormous challenges in all areas of life. Those are true miracles and they happen all the time, but most of us ignore them or miss the significance. If you’re a Christian, you not only believe in the miracles performed by Jesus, but you trust that miracles, the actions of God, occur every day! And that belief, sets the tone for everything we do in life!
FAITH – The miracle of Christ’s love.
This all comes full circle as I tell you the rest of the story and why the Miracle on Ice really stands out in my mind. When I think of that game, I think of Mark Johnson who scored two of the goals against the Soviets. Ten years after that game and after a career in the NHL, Mark had moved back to raise his family in Madison, WI where I was coaching for the Badgers. When Kara and I moved to Madison, we were a bit concerned about the area’s liberal atmosphere and a little unsure of where God had led us. Through the Athletes in Action campus ministry group, we were invited to a couple’s Bible study led by Jeff and Nancy Prior, along with another couple involved with AIA, Doug and Chole Gotcher. As it turned out, we spent most of those nights at the home of Mark and his wife Leslie. For a short two years and at a critical time for many of us, we spent time growing in the Word and encouraging each other in our marriages. I call it a miracle that the Holy Spirit brought us together from different backgrounds, different churches, and in different stages of life. Last week, I shared some thoughts from Mike Krzyzewski about how important it is to build relationships and when we focus on our relationships with fellow believers, God’s Spirit works miracles within us.
Occurrences like that, in mind, are miracles. They’re God directed. When Jesus died, He promised His followers that He would send the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2, you can read the miracles that were performed in the early church, the community of Christians as:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. (Acts 2:44)
As I watch this year’s U.S. Team chase a medal, I think of Mark Johnson, but I also think about our couples’ group and the miracle of fellowship that we experienced. It was the miracle of God being among His people as he was in the early fellowship of believers, regardless of our specific church or the condition of marriages, or the status of our jobs. So, yes Al Michaels, I do believe in miracles!