By Dave Jenkins
Special to Inside The Pew
It is almost incredible how professional athletes can play even when they are in tremendous pain from an injury. In most situations, only extreme pain or injuries can stop a professional athlete from their true purpose, which is to win a championship.
The spiritual point to this is, there are some Christians who have obvious pains in their lives and there are some who have undisclosed pain in their lives. There is the pain of a life-threatening disease such as cancer. There is the pain of a marriage that is not going well. Or there is the pain of a business that is failing. There are the more secret pains such as depression, an unreported rape, a child that is rebellious, or the poor grade in a class.
Our challenge then is will we allow the pain, no matter what type it is, to distract us from our God-given purpose? Will we give in to the injury of failure or poor self-esteem or will we move forward in faith? If we don’t give into the pain, we may have an iconic moment such as Willis Reed had in game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals on May 8. Reed played in the NBA championship game for the New York Knicks despite a severe leg injury. He went on to win most valuable player in 1970.
So the question is how was the future Hall of Famer able to move past his pain and stay focused on his purpose? What are the leadership lessons that we can learn from Reed about not allowing our pain to distract you from your purpose.
Leadership Principle 1: He thought more of the team did he did of himself.
When pain hits us it does not impact us only, but it also impacts those around us. We may have been the direct target of the pain that has been inflected on us, but our family and co-workers, church members are targeted as “collateral damage.”
But how could he play basketball when he could barely walk? He could run the risk of damaging his leg and prematurely ending his career by playing. Reed had to make the choice between following his pain or focusing on his purpose. His decision was to focus on his purpose, which was to help his team win.
We have a choice, let the pain tell us to run and hide or we can face the situation and help not only ourselves but our team (family, co-workers, business partner). Fathers, mothers, pastors and teachers; there are people whose lives are impacted by how we deal with our personal pain. Philippians 2:4 says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Leadership Principle 2: He had prepared for this moment and did not want to let it get past him.
“I wanted to play,” Reed said in 2010 of his decision. “That was for the championship, the one great moment you play for all your life. I didn’t want to have to look at myself in the mirror 20 years later and say I wished I had tried to play.”
In Esther 4:14, Mordecai, the adviser/uncle to Esther reminds her that she was the possible solution to the pain that the Jewish nation was suffering. Her accent to the position of queen at the time was not a matter of chance, but God’s timing for her. Mordecai said. “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”
You were made a leader for such a time as this. You were married for such a time as this. You were made strong by God for such a time as this. You were pushed from your comfort zone by the pain to move you to a greater call.
Leadership Principle 3: He did not give up hope.
Reed had to miss game 6 of the championship series because of his leg pain. His team lost game 6 during his absence. It would have been easy for him to give up and say, “We lost game 6, and I am not sure if I can play in game 7.” Instead, he kept searching for a way to play; he kept hope alive that he would be there for the final and deciding game. Many times the pain that we go through is simply the transportation to get us to our destination. In Isaiah 40:31, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; They will run and not grow weary, They will walk and not be faint” (NIV).
Leadership Principle 4: He knew the importance of showing the opposing team he had no fear.
Because of his leg injury, no one knew for sure if Reed would play in the game. The rest of his team had gone out to warm up while Reed remained in the locker room. Just moments before the game started, Reed left the locker room and headed to the basketball court. When his team and fans saw his unexpected entrance, everyone went wild with excitement; that is everyone with the exception of the opposing team, the Lakers. When Reed came to the court, the entire Lakers team stopped what they were doing and watched in unbelief as Reed went to the table to check-in for the game.
The Lakers may have thought that Reed would not show up for this game given the pain he was in. There are people who doubt you and the enemy who hates you that needs to know you have no fear of dealing with the pain. The haters need to know that you will not allow the pain or the fear of pain keep you for your purpose. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” When the other team sees that you have no fear, it will put fear in their hearts.
Leadership Principle 5: He remembered previous times that he had to overcome obstacles to get the victory.
Too often when things don’t go well or when we encounter pain, some believers want to give up. Reed knew that pain was a part of the game. We have to remember that pain is a part of life just as it is a part of sports.
Overcomers deal with the pain and the setbacks that this world gives them because they stand on the promise of Jesus. We don’t give up on the hope that is within us.
However, we have a word of encouragement from Jesus in John 16:33 “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”
Dave Jenkins is an ordained minister and leadership and relationship teacher. Jenkins, a former chaplain for the Allen (Texas) Police Department, is a graduate of Grambling State University in Grambling, La., and earned a master’s of Christian leadership from Criswell College in Dallas. He also received advanced counseling training from Amberton University. Jenkins and his wife, Phyllis, are hosts of their own weekly family relationships show, “Marriage Monday,” on KGGR 1040 at 5 p.m. CST. Follow him on Twitter at @IamDaveJenkins and “like” him on Facebook (IamDaveJenkinsJr). Learn more about his ministry at www.davejenkinsjr.com.