Have you ever heard of basketball suicide drills? The very thought of them sends shivers down my spine! I remember how my high school basketball teammates and I would cringe when our coach would yell, “Get on the line!” at the end of an already grueling practice, knowing the misery that awaited us. A suicide drill involves sprinting from the baseline to the free-throw line and back, followed by the half-court line, and the opposite free-throw line and baseline – and that’s just one suicide drill. Sometimes we ran over 20 suicide drills in one setting, and that was after we had already finished two intense hours of practice! Oh, and did I mention they were timed? Heaven help you if you were the teammate who didn’t finish when the clock hit zero, adding five more suicide drills for the entire team!
There was no way around it – suicide drills were miserable, uncomfortable, painful, annoying, frustrating, and, in the moment, seemingly never-ending. As much as I disliked suicide drills at the time though, I was never more thankful for them than during the fourth quarter of a basketball game. Oftentimes, while the other team would start to look worn-out, our team would catch a “second-wind.” The “shape” or perseverance of our team was always a difference-maker in the games we played. You see, when you’re down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter, you can have all the talent and skill in the world, but without the endurance to sustain it, all of that talent and skill suddenly becomes worthless.
Maybe you’ve heard the quote by the famous basketball coach John Wooden, who said, “Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” Well, according to Romans 5:3-4, we can’t develop character without perseverance, and perseverance only comes by enduring trials – aka – suicide drills! My coach understood this principle, which is why she pushed us beyond what we thought we were capable of, in order to help us fulfill our desire to win basketball games. While we were complaining, thinking about the discomfort of suicide drills, she was thinking of the victories we’d achieve during fourth quarters. You see, it’s one thing to lose a game because you were out-played or out-matched, but it’s another to lose a game because you were out-hustled and out of shape.
Maybe you’re finding yourself in the midst of a “suicide drill” or “trial” right now in your own life. You probably feel miserable, uncomfortable, frustrated or even in pain, but if you’ll make the choice to anchor yourself to perseverance and keep running the race God has called you to in spite of what you feel, you will develop the character to sustain yourself where God wants to promote and use you in your own “fourth quarter” moments of life! Oh, and remember how I mentioned if one of our teammates didn’t finish the suicide drills on time, that our WHOLE team would pay the consequence? Let that be a reminder to all of us that, in life, there will always be other people who are relying on our choice to persevere and not give up! So as the Church, let’s continue to build one another up in encouragement, throw off the things that hinder us, and run with perseverance the race God has marked out for us (Hebrews 12:1 NIV); the fourth quarter – and our teammates – depend on it!
CALL TO ACTION
Oftentimes, the best thing we can do to persevere through our own trials is to encourage others in the midst of their trials. Take five minutes and think of three people you know (a friend, a co-worker, a family member, etc.) who could use some encouragement. Send them a text, email, or hand-written note letting them know you’re thinking about them and praying for them (you could even include one of the Scripture verses from this devotional). Never underestimate the great impact the simplest gesture can have on a person’s life!
“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” — Romans 5: 2-4 (NIV)