I have a confession: I’m horrible at basketball. Like…really, really bad. But I always get put on A-team for club basketball. Try and figure that one out. I think they just put me on there because I’m tall. They make me prostitute my height. All my friends know I’m challenged when it comes to this sport. They come to the games just to laugh at me and cheer extra loud in the apocalyptic moment that I actually make a lay-up. But I do what I can. I’m quick, so I hustle like nothing else. (Granted, I don’t understand the game, so I’m just kind of running around everywhere while waving my gangly arms, but I like to think of that as defense.) And you know, quite honestly…I’m okay with all of that. Even though it’s all I can do, it helps in some small way.

Now, that confession is not a spiritual parallel. I think trying to find sin, salvation, and Jesus equivalencies in any life experience belittles the Bible because it’s corny, infantile, and nonintellectual. Consider my basketball skills more of a segue. Segues are so much better.

John 3:22-30 has this funny section where people run up to John the Baptist going, “Hey, this Jesus guy is treading on your ground by baptizing people. What’re you going to do about it?” Contentedly he responds, “I’m just doing what I can.” John’s job was not to change the world, but rather, to prepare the world for the one who would change it. This was fine with him. He recognized that he had to “become less” if Christ was to “become greater.” Personally, this is troubling. I want to be all things to all people, but I know that simply isn’t possible. I can’t stretch myself that thin (I’m wiry enough as it is). I don’t really know how to just step out of the way and let God take over. I’ll be honest: it bugs me that I don’t have what it takes to be a doctor. I see needs around me, and I think, “Geez, it’d be amazing if I could do something there,” and granted, there is some good I could still do. But eventually I would hit this wall that only a doctor would be able to scale. I have to be okay with that.

John was content to let Christ take care of the things he couldn’t, but for me there’s something so nebulous about letting God take the reins. Probably because I can’t actually see Him doing anything in the moment, but in retrospect I can always see how He’s been moving. I suppose what this comes down to is an issue of trust sprinkled with humility.

We can only do as much as we humanly can and must be satisfied with knowing that God will be able to use that, work with it, and take care of the rest. God will never ask you to do more than you can on your part (note: that does not mean God won’t give you more than you can handle—one of the biggest nuggets of mistruth being thrown around in Christian circles). So why does it always seem like we’re faced with issues or tasks that are bigger than us? Could it be that God purposefully throws those on us to emphasize just how much we need to trust Him?

Much love.

  1. joshua h said:

    two comments.

    first, a comment on your teaching. it’s great. you write, “I think trying to find sin, salvation, and Jesus equivalencies in any life experience belittles the Bible because it’s corny, infantile, and nonintellectual.” Nothing can be farther from the truth. Just look @ the way Jesus taught in the Bible. He taught spiritual truths but used things like the birth process, plants, farming, etc, to explain spiritual truths. Bringing spiritual truth down to earth is one of the most important things people can do. people will often leave a sermon or a blog remembering the spiritual point ONLY because it is connected to a good illustration. It is NOT nonintellectual, it is practical and a way to show grace and truth.

    second, i whole heartedly agree that, biblically, God gives us more than we can handle, so that, we have to turn to Him, so that, He gets the glory. (I know, horrible sentence structure…) It is His glory and He will not share it with anyone. It is our job to obey and leave the results up to Him.

    Good job.

    I though you could play basketball too. My bad.

    • Nelson Shake said:

      Josh, while it may not seem like it from my post and your comment, you and I are in complete agreement. I didn’t explain fully enough, and I apologize. Entirely my fault.

      Illustrations are definitely important. What I’m referring to is how some people will try their best to find a spiritual parallel in everything, as if every experience in life can somehow point back to a spiritual lesson. This simply isn’t true. Now, are some parts of life stark parallels to Christian faith, so blatant that they undeniably exist? Absolutely! And thank goodness Christ referenced these often so concepts wouldn’t shoot too far over our heads (like you said…the birth process, plants, and farming). What I simply meant was that some people stretch that approach way too far when they try to unearth a spiritual parallel that was never there in the first place. That is corny and belittles the Bible (in my opinion). However, what Christ did was not nonintellectual, I agree.

      Using parallels is a great teaching tool…no question about that. You mention people will remember the point when it’s tied to a good illustration, and that’s exactly what I mean. It has to be a good illustration, one that’s used correctly. That equals a huge benefit. If it’s used poorly, though, it only hinders people from getting the gist of the message, and afterwards people will walk away from the speech/sermon/lesson going, “Yeah…don’t see how those two relate.” Since Christ was a master at the use of these parallels, I think we should carefully pay attention to how he used them, rather than being quick to employ them at the drop of a hat.

      My mistake for not explaining myself more clearly…thanks for bringing that to my attention!

  2. Alex said:

    During junior high, when I made the mistake of playing basketball, I was only in for one game. In about ten seconds, I somehow acquired three fouls. I was a hero of stupidity.

    I often struggle in decided what is mediocrity and what is leaning upon God. I cannot stand to set my sights any lower than I feel they will already naturally be pulled by my human nature, so I aspire to the highest standards I can. And yet sometimes, during the ascension, I feel like I could be a more effective instrument in other, seemingly “lower” places. I struggle to remember, like the priests and scribes, that what I interpret as greatness and mediocrity are, in fact, only different opportunities to serve.

    I believe to find spiritual contentment, we should echo John in just doing what we can. It is not a commentary on profession or employment ladder, but a comment of willingness.

  3. Sarah said:

    I agree with Joshua about how using life experiences and parables is useful and the way Jesus taught, but I also see the point where people can get caught up in just telling stories. Sometimes I think we lose the actual point when the emphasis is too much on something we can picture. Perhaps there has to be some balance and careful thought put into the way that the story connects to the message and whether it will actually do as Joshua said and help others remember the point, not just the story. We also have to be careful about limiting God with metaphors, but instead use them to show just how unlimited and indescribably awesome He is.
    We are limited. As you said in your post, “I can’t stretch myself that thin.” When God gives us more than we can handle on our own, it reminds us not only of our need for Him, but also I believe it forces us to grow stronger. Not so that the next time we won’t need God, but instead we can do more with God as our foundation. We have to remember it is “When I am weak then I am strong”(2 Cor 12:9-10) and Philipians 4:13 reminds us that it is through him that we do all things. Perhaps this does have to do with humility as you suggest and maybe it also has to do with us serving where we are needed. We all have been given different gifts to serve our Lord and He transforms our gifts to use them for His glory. The fishermen became fishers of men. Perhaps you are blessed with a gift to heal, not bodies, but souls through your writing.

  4. joshua h said:

    i get your drift and completely agree with you nelson. BECAUSE people will many time ONLY remember our illustrations, it is of utmost importance that our illustrations are carefully crafted to convey the meaning of the passage we are tying to bring to light.

    i appreciate your reverence for God’s word in this. your care and concern to keep God’s word intact is encouraging. keep up the good work and keep the basketball references coming.

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