Pressure Helps Us Grow

As part of my son’s post-chemo physical therapy, we’ve been taking him to a local gym that has a large “lazy river” in its pool area.

In the early morning, this concrete river is essentially empty of people, which gives Aaron the opportunity to stretch out and get his body moving. At this point, any bodily movement is beneficial, as his body was essentially sidelined for 4 straight months.

A lazy river is typically meant for people to go with the flow of the current. You jump in the water or get on an inner tube and let the river carry you along. It can be really relaxing. But it won’t do much for your conditioning.

The quickest way to engage one’s muscles in a lazy river is try and walk or paddle against the current. It’s amazing how a little pressure causes the muscles to work way harder!

I think the same principle applies to life. A life that never faces any resistance rarely gets stronger. Going with the flow and avoiding any pressure means we will miss opportunities.

Now, I don’t think we need to go out looking for pressure. The way life is designed, pressure will find us. Job challenges. Health challenges. Relational challenges. Financial challenges.

Sometimes we attempt to avoid the pressure these challenges bring about. In his book EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY SPIRITUALITY, Peter Scazzero writes:

“Our culture routinely interprets trials, challenges and losses as alien invasions that interrupt our “normal” lives. We numb our pain through denial, blaming, rationalizations, addictions and avoidance. We search for spiritual shortcuts. We demand others take away our pain.”

But when don’t face challenges with courage and perseverance, we miss out on the lessons such trials offer us.

One may ask, “What type of lessons do trials provide?” Two scriptures provide some answers:

First is James 1:2-4: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

The takeaway of these verses? That we can become more steadfast by facing our challenges. I picture a tree with deep roots being able to endure storm after storm.

The second passage is Romans 5:3-5: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Beyond endurance, pressure can build character and hope! These our two qualities that our vital to a person’s well-being.

Regarding trials, theologian Edmund Clowney said: “Trials should not surprise us, or cause us to doubt God’s faithfulness. Rather, we should actually be glad for them. God sends trials to strengthen our trust in him so that our faith will not fail. Our trials keep us trusting; they burn away our self confidence and drive us to our Savior.”

It’s easy to go with the flow. But there’s little growth gained by floating along with the current.

Life’s trials are not easy. But in God’s will, each has a purpose. Allow the pressure to do its work in order to make you stronger, wiser, and more humble.

How I Felt When I Heard Aaron’s Good News Cancer Report

Last Thursday, Aaron had his post-chemo PET-Scan. The purpose was to scrutinize his body in order to spot any cancer that may still be lingering after treatment.

The next day, Sara, Aaron and I drove over to the Cancer Center at Kootenai Health to hear the results.

All of us were nervous. After 3 months of brutal chemo, the only thing we wanted to hear was that Aaron was in remission. We wanted to be hopeful and positive, but perhaps as a way of cushioning any blows, we kept our feet on the ground.

Thankfully, we got to hear the world “remission.” There were no cancer markers picked up by the scan! (The only side-effect of chemo was that Aaron’s lungs are a bit inflamed.)

As the news sunk in, I found myself processing a few emotional responses to the good news as the day went by.

I was first struck with relief. Since March 8, we’ve all carried a burden. Aaron had to carry the biggest load by far, but with all the side-effects, Sara and I found ourselves as his full-time caretakers, trying to figure out how to solve his numerous wild and crazy responses to chemo. Truly, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. Sometimes you don’t realize how much stress you are carrying until it the burden is removed.

As we walked out of the Cancer Center, my eyes filled up with tears. Mainly on behalf of Aaron. This was his “win.” He had the most to lose, and I felt so happy for him that his treatment was effective. Throughout his treatment, I felt the need to be strong rock for him. But with his favorable report in hand, I felt the freedom to release some unfiltered empathy. Before we got to the car, I gave him a big hug, full of thanks for his unique, precious life.

As they day went on, I felt more and more joy well up in my spirit. Over the past 4 months, joy has been in short supply. Its as if I haven’t had permission to be happy, due to Aaron’s dire situation. Cancer has a way of making one very sober about life and death.

Finally, I processed emotions of humility. Life is fragile and we have no guarantees of how long it will last. For all our bluster and bravado, we humans are like dust. The Bible reminds us of our feeble frame when it says:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring—what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. – James 4:14 CSB

We’re all so vulnerable. In the scope of the universe, we’re mere specks. We may feel invincible at times (particularly in our youth), but the reality is we are frail and fragile.

I think my feelings of being humbled by this whole “Aaron has cancer” experience were an internal form of worship. Rather than raise my fist in the air and give out a victory cry, I felt more like bowing my head in awe and wonder to the creator of everything. Such feelings made me think of the doxology written by Paul in Romans 11:33-36:

Oh, the depth of the riches
and the wisdom and the knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments
and untraceable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?
And who has ever given to God,
that he should be repaid?
For from him and through him
and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever. Amen.

As the days and weeks go by, I’m sure I’ll have more thoughts and feel more feelings. But this is how I felt on July 2, 2021. The day Aaron was told his cancer was in remission.

Book Summary: Deep Discipleship (Part 2)

Some more thoughts about J.T. English’s book, DEEP DISCIPLESHIP

After using the first 2 chapters to lay a foundation, chapter 3 kicks into the meat of the book. In a nutshell, this is basic outline of for the last 5 chapters of the book. The author’s goal is to provide a template for shaping a discipleship strategy:

Chapter 3: The SPACE of Discipleship

Chapter 4: The SCOPE of Discipleship

Chapter 5: The SEQUENCE of Discipleship

Chapter 6: The SENDING of Discipleship

Chapter 7: The STRATEGY of Discipleship

CHAPTER 3: SPACE: WHERE DOES DISCIPLESHIP HAPPEN IN THE CHURCH?

In chapter 2, the author sought to make the point that the primary place for discipleship is within the life of the church. In chapter 3, he seeks to be more specific about how discipleship happens best in local churches.

Early in the chapter he shares how he realizes community is an important part of church life, but then states that “while small groups are great at a lot of great things, the are not that great at creating learning outcomes.” He also acknowledges that when groups turn into larger gatherings for learning, community diminishes. Basically, he brings up a tension that many churches struggle with. They are, typically, either good at creating fellowship and connection, or they are good at teaching and training. The challenge is for each church to figure out which spaces work best for building disciples. In the author’s words, “We need to have spaces in the local church in which learning, in the context of community, is the highest stated value.” Another thought-provoking quote was this: “community is indispensable to discipleship, but community is not discipleship.”

Much of this chapter focused on the author’s observation that Christians of our current day are woefully lacking in discipleship. He write, “Study after study shows that Christians do not know their Bible, the basics of the faith, or how to practice spiritual disciplines. We are basically illiterate when it comes to the Christian faith, yet we are adopting philosophies of ministry that deemphasize of learning about the Christian life. For some reason we have grown skeptical of learning and education in the church.”

There is “no one size fits all” approach to discipleship; each church must figure out what works best in their context. Some churches develop core classes on Sunday mornings while other churches create a year-long institute model. Whatever the case, the author encourages our leaning spaces to be active, always searching for ways to avoid learning that is too passive. Our learning spaces  should also be challenging and pressing participants toward transformation and submission to Christ

Book Summary: Deep Discipleship (Part 2)

Some more thoughts about J.T. English’s book, DEEP DISCIPLESHIP

After using the first 2 chapters to lay a foundation, chapter 3 kicks into the meat of the book. In a nutshell, this is basic outline of for the last 5 chapters of the book. The author’s goal is to provide a template for shaping a discipleship strategy:

Chapter 3: The SPACE of Discipleship
Chapter 4: The SCOPE of Discipleship
Chapter 5: The SEQUENCE of Discipleship
Chapter 6: The SENDING of Discipleship
Chapter 7: The STRATEGY of Discipleship

CHAPTER 3: SPACE: WHERE DOES DISCIPLESHIP HAPPEN IN THE CHURCH?

In chapter 2, the author sought to make the point that the primary place for discipleship is within the life of the church. In chapter 3, he seeks to be more specific about how discipleship happens best in local churches.

Early in the chapter he shares how he realizes community is an important part of church life, but then states that “while small groups are great at a lot of great things, the are not that great at creating learning outcomes.” He also acknowledges that when groups turn into larger gatherings for learning, community diminishes. Basically, he brings up a tension that many churches struggle with. They are, typically, either good at creating fellowship and connection, or they are good at teaching and training. The challenge is for each church to figure out which spaces work best for building disciples. In the author’s words, “We need to have spaces in the local church in which learning, in the context of community, is the highest stated value.” Another thought-provoking quote was this: “community is indispensable to discipleship, but community is not discipleship.”

Much of this chapter focused on the author’s observation that Christians of our current day are woefully lacking in discipleship. He write, “Study after study shows that Christians do not know their Bible, the basics of the faith, or how to practice spiritual disciplines. We are basically illiterate when it comes to the Christian faith, yet we are adopting philosophies of ministry that deemphasize of learning about the Christian life. For some reason we have grown skeptical of learning and education in the church.”

There is “no one size fits all” approach to discipleship; each church must figure out what works best in their context. Some churches develop core classes on Sunday mornings while other churches create a year-long institute model. Whatever the case, the author encourages our leaning spaces to be active, always searching for ways to avoid learning that is too passive. Our learning spaces should also be challenging and pressing participants toward transformation and submission to Christ

Book Summary: Deep Discipleship (Part 1)

I recently read through the book DEEP DISCIPLESHIP by J.T. English. Over the next few days, I’ll offer an overview of the book’s contents, along with any commentary I think might be helpful.

The premise of the book (as described on the back cover) is that “the majority of Christians today are being discipled by popular media, flashy events and folk theology because churches have neglected their responsibility to make disciples. But the church is not a secondary platform in the mission of God; it is the primary platform God uses to grow people into the image of Jesus.”

In the first few chapters of the book the author lays the foundation with these teachings/observations/declarations:

CHAPTER ONE: A GOD-CENTERED VISION FOR DISCIPLESHIP

  • Discipleship in the evangelical church is too deep, but it is far too shallow. We have tried to treat our discipleship disease by appealing to the lowest common denominator, oversimplifying discipleship, and taking the edge off what it means to follow Christ.”
  • Instead of asking “What do disciples want?,” we should ask “What do disciples need?” Instead of asking “How do we maintain disciples?,” we should ask “How do we grow disciples?”
  • Success in ministry is not found in building programs but in building disciples.
  • Ministry that is not oriented to the presence of God is dead. The why behind the what of deep discipleship is God. The source of true discipleship is not better programs, better preaching or better community. All of these, and more, are hugely important tools, but the source of discipleship is God Himself.
  • God is not interested in creating an audience; He wants participants.

The author identifies 2 challenges to deep discipleship:

Challenge #1: Self-Centered Discipleship. We have replaced the transcendence of God for the transcendence of self. In this turn toward self, the church has, perhaps both intentionally and unintentionally, tailored its discipleship strategies to accommodate, and even perpetuate, the cultural shift toward self. According to Jesus, discipleship is not about self-actualization or self-preservation; it is about self-denial.  We will best know ourselves when we are carrying our cross. In summary, discipleship is not a path to autonomous self-improvement that leads to a throne; it is a path of self-denial that leads to a cross.

Challenge #2: Spiritual Apathy. In the church we are more concerned about apostasy than we are with apathy, but both are deadly to a vibrant walk with Christ. IA domesticated Jesus will never produce deep disciples; a domesticated Jesus is not worth following. If our excellence in ministry is keeping people’s attention rather than the beauty of Jesus, then we have failed. That’s because becoming bored with the true Christ is impossible. One of the reasons our people have grown bored with Jesus is that many church leaders have as well. We have settled for a cultural Christianity that is anemic and will not sustain disciples of Jesus.

CHAPTER TWO: THE CHURCH: WHERE WHOLE DISCIPLES ARE FORMED

Many people believe they have to leave the church to find deep discipleship. But let’s be clear: the church is called to make disciples and it is time for us to stop delegating our responsibility. The local church is meant to be the primary spiritual guide for disciples who are on the journey of growing deeper in the love and knowledge of God. Virtual discipleship cannot create deep disciples because deep discipleship is intensely local. Formation is meant to be personal, embodied and incarnational. The  local church is able to supply a place, people and purpose for growth. The local church is uniquely appointed, in God’s providence and wisdom, to make disciples. Thus, it is a responsibility that ought not be delegated or out-sourced. Simply put, churchless discipleship is aimless discipleship.

A few questions posed by the author at the end of the first few chapters:

  • Is your church raising or lowering the bar of discipleship?
  • How is a God-centered vision for discipleship different from other discipleship paradigms?
  • What do you see as a greater challenge in your church: self-centered discipleship or spiritual apathy?
  • Do you agree that the local church should be the primary vehicle for discipleship?
  • Why does the church sometimes pass the responsibility of discipleship off to other people and ministries?

Discipleship is a Partnership

Some people like to say, “Let go and let God.” Which essentially means, relax, sit back and let God do all the work.

Other people seem to be of the mind that spiritual development rests solely on the shoulders of the disciple. In other words: God does the saving, but its on us to do the growing.

I find both views to be extreme. Instead, I believe that discipleship is a holy collaboration between Creator and the re-created.

We can’t grow without God’s help. At the same time, we won’t grow if we refuse to put forth any effort.

In John 15, Jesus stressed the importance of consistently abiding in Him, to the point that he declared, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” As we abide in Christ and keep in step with the Spirit, God works through us to produce lasting spiritual fruit that will remain forever (John 15:4-5; Galatians 5:25; John 15:8).

If we leave God out of our “spiritual growth equation,” its a sure sign of hubris. Simply put, “no God, no growth.”

Yet, in contrast (but not in contradiction), Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 5:7, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” Paul used an athletic analogy to convey to Timothy that effort will be involved. The Olympic athlete dedicates himself to countless hours of rigorous training, all the while refraining from otherwise acceptable enjoyments to maintain discipline, all for the sake of achieving his goal. So, too, the follower of Christ must engage in certain activities and refrain from others in order to achieve the goal of increasing Christlikeness.

Paul also told the believers in Philippi, “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12-13)

So, although we are completely dependent upon God to mature spiritually, we have an indispensable role to play in the process.

Perhaps we might look at it like this: God provides all the tools we need to grow (which is backed up by 2 Peter 1:3-8), but its our responsibility to pick up the tools and put them to use.

Those who farm know that they, on their own, can’t make a single plant grow, But, the wise farmer also knows that if he doesn’t plow, plant, water and cultivate, no crop will sprout from the ground.

Spiritual maturity is a divine work of God and a miracle to watch. Yet, God calls upon us to join Him in this amazing work. We are called to listen, learn and obey. We’re also called to study and meditate upon God’s Word, pray, worship and serve.

Scottish Bible teacher Alexander MacLaren once wrote: “We may have as much of God as we will. Christ puts the key of the treasure-chamber into our hand, and bids us take all that we want. If a man is admitted into the bullion vault of a bank and told to help himself, and comes out with one cent, whose fault is it that he is poor?” So we see, then, that the choice is ours. May each of us desire increasing godliness and use the keys we have been given.”

Get Thee to Church!

In years to come, sociologists will have a field day looking back at the effects of the pandemic/quarantines of 2020. Why? Because whether for reasons large or small, culture has been greatly impacted by COVID-19. Did you know that during COVID, the divorce rate skyrocketed? At the same time, loneliness became a huge societal issue. And the birth rate dropped. Because of COVID, many of us shop, travel and work differently than we did before the pandemic.

One area that’s concerning to me is how people engage in church life. Sadly, some Christians have decided church attendance and involvement isn’t a priority anymore. Churches across the nation report that more people are returning to church, but the numbers of in-person attendees is still way down. The big question is: “will they ever come back?”

The Christian life was never meant to be solitary. All of the biblical metaphors for a church indicate a plurality, never a singularity: we are a body, a flock, a building, and a holy nation. There are no “lone wolves” in biblical Christianity.

Church engagement is a discipline, but the pandemic threw a wrench into something many were in the habit of doing. Going to church was part of the normal flow of the week, but once that flow was interrupted, some found it difficult to re-engage. But gathering consistently with other living, breathing human beings is something God wants us to do!

But why?

First, we gather on Sundays to worship God corporately. Yes, we can individually worship God throughout the week. But there is something unique and special when people worship en masse. Corporate worship is a gathering that anticipates the worship believers will experience in heaven. In eternity, believers will worship with all of God’s people before the Lord. Corporate worship on earth allows us to participate together in a way that looks forward to this time of eternal glory.

Second, we gather to practice community with other believers. I appreciate the people in our church who come on Sunday mornings with a intentional, purposeful mindset. They make it their aim to visit and pray with people as well as greet newcomers. When we practice community, we seek to encourage one another in our walk with Jesus.

Hebrews 10:24-25 gives us this exhortation:

And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.

I think it’s significant to note that the recipients of the Hebrews letter were under the threat of persecution. Public church attendance could open them up to abuse. The command indicates that the benefits of attendance outweigh any possible threat.

The Hebrews passage mentioned above reveals that one of the purposes of gathering together is to “encourage one another.” We all need encouragement. Corporate worship provides that for us. Church attendance also helps prevent drifting, backsliding and apostasy. Without regular participation in corporate worship, one tends to meander spiritually.

When we attend corporate worship, we hear the public preaching of the Word of God. Substituting a media ministry (like radio or television or an internet streamed service) not only removes the immediacy of public preaching, but can foster a sense of isolation, effectively privatizing our Christianity. This was never God’s plan for us.

Corporate worship is a vital part of our spiritual growth. When we regularly gather with other believers, we can encourage others, be encouraged, and grow together in our common faith in Jesus Christ.

The Hope of Wholeness

For I will restore health to you, and your wounds I will heal, declares the Lord. ~ Jeremiah 30:17

I hadn’t seen what I’d call the “real Aaron” for about 2 months.

From the moment he had his cancer surgery in Boise on March 11, Aaron has been, to varying degrees, a shell of himself.

Yesterday I took Aaron to a foot doctor appointment. The nurse who checked him in made mention that on his last visit in 2018 he weighed 153 pounds. Ever since his diagnosis, he’s hovered between 125 and 130 pounds. That’s a lot weight loss.

Beyond the typical struggles of recovering from a serious surgery, Aaron has run the gamut of chemo side effects. He’s literally been impacted from head to toe: dehydration, dizziness, heartburn, various digestive struggles, bone pain, and numb fingers and toes. Overall, he’s been lethargic, weak and easily exhausted.

I’m still resolutely focused on the big goal of eradicating the cancer. But it has been difficult to watch Aaron’s body broken down in so many ways. In fact, because he was dragging so much, his doctor decided to give him a week off of chemo treatment in order for his body to regain some strength.

And, thankfully, due to the respite, Aaron woke up this morning resembling much more the person he was before this crazy journey started. He was bright-eyed and displayed his unique sense of humor. He didn’t need help moving around. He teased the dog. All without one complaint or mention of pain.

Since he’s only about halfway through his chemo treatment, we will very likely go through another season of struggle. But today gave me hope that in about a month we will get to see the “old Aaron” emerge for good.

And as I often do, I couldn’t help but tie a situation like Aaron’s to a bigger issue.

When I think of the big picture story of the Bible, it’s a message of God seeking to bring broken creation back to a place of wholeness and well-being. And part of that fallen creation is us!

As it stands, we are not the people God created us to be. We are broken. That’s because human beings, along with the entire universe, are marred and marked by the effects of sin.

Imagine God’s sadness to know that, although human beings were first created in his image and without fault, we now suffer from the consequences of our fallenness.

Simply put, we are spiritually sick. In fact, the Bible says that we are spiritually dead.

Romans 3:23 puts in like this: “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.”

This brokenness shows up in the ways we think, feel and act. Don’t believe humanity is scarred by sin? Just turn on the evening news.

Every human struggles in one way or another. No one is perfect.

Thankfully, humanity is not beyond redemption. There is hope for restoration.

Through Christ, God is actively working to bring us back to what was once humanity’s “normal.”

The Hebrew word that describes God’s goal for us (and all creation) is shalom. It’s a word that describes several aspects of well-being such as completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord

On earth, this work is spread out over our lifetime. Day by day, as we yield ourselves to God’s grace and power, God transforms our hearts, minds and wills to be more conformed to his perfect ways.

And when we leave this planet, we will, in a moment, be completely restored. We will have returned to the original condition God made us to be.

Today I got to see the “old Aaron” emerge from the cloud of surgery and chemo. The sad part is he still has about 4 weeks of chemo to go. And with it, another series of side effects. But when he’s done, I’ll be anxiously waiting for the old Aaron to return for good. I look forward to him having clearer mind, stronger body and lifted spirits. (And a fresh, new head of hair.)

Revelation 21:5 has Jesus offering a powerful promise to a sick, struggling universe: “I am making all things new.”

Because of this declaration, we can be encouraged by the hope of wholeness.

Doing the Hard Work

“I must take care above all that I cultivate communion with Christ, for though that can never be the basis of my peace – mark that – yet it will be the channel of it.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

This spring I noticed my lawn was full of a lot of dead, compressed grass (which is typical after the snow season). The weight of the snow simply smashes everything flat. The result of all this grass flattening is the lawn doesn’t grow as well as it should. Basically, it can’t breathe.

To resolve this issue, I bought a small, electric de-thatcher. Which is amazing! All I have to do is run the machine over the lawn and the de-thatcher pulls up all the dead grass and leaves it in little haystacks all over the top of the grass. It’s amazing how easily the machine works. It’s almost effortless.

But then I have to rake up all the thatch and toss it in the trash. Which is laborious and kind of boring. It takes but minutes to de-thatch the lawn. It takes hours to clean it up.

But, if I don’t do the hard work of cleaning up, I’ll never gain the result I seek: a richer, thicker, greener lawn. I’ll have only moved the dead grass from the bottom of my grass to the top.

Lately, I’ve been bumping into this verse from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

“Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14 CSB)

Typically, this verse is attributed to salvation. The idea being that those who pursue Jesus’ pathway toward life will find it leads to heaven. Which I’m on board with. But I wonder if the concept of a harder, more arduous path could also be applied to our ongoing spiritual development as well.

I find the things that really promote deep spiritual growth are usually quite hard for us. And in a lot of cases, the degree of difficulty will determine whether we invest our time and energy in our own Christian maturity.

Things like prayer. Or study. Or slowing down to spend time with God. It could be meaningful service that costs us time, energy or resources. Each of these practices demand a lot from us. And so we may choose other activities that aren’t as strenuous. In essence, we are choosing the wide, easier path that doesn’t demand much of us.

But I believe the depth of our spiritual life is in direct correlation with how much of the hard work we are willing to do. We must foster personal self-discipline in order to complete the harder practices of the Christian life.

Steve Lawson wrote:

“Growth in personal holiness is largely determined by our progress in self-discipline. Without this foundational discipline, there can be no advancement in grace. Before other disciplines can be administered, whether in the home, business, or church, there first must be self-discipline.

De-thatching my lawn was pretty easy. But raking up the dead grass felt like a grind. But unless I removed the dead grass, my lawn wouldn’t look one bit better.

As the saying goes: “Anything that comes too easy probably isn’t worth doing.”

How to Win While Losing

“Losing is only temporary and not encompassing. You must simply study it, learn from it, and try hard not to lose the same way again. Then you must have the self-control to forget about it.” ~ John Wooden

This evening I was doing two things at the same time.

I was watching the Gonzaga-Baylor NCAA title game. And I was polishing up my notes for my Sunday message out of the Sermon on the Mount.

Obviously, with Spokane less than 30 miles from our house, I was pulling for the Zags.

But it was obvious from the get-go that Baylor came out with more energy and greater determination.

(As an excuse for the loss, I’d like to think that Gonzaga burned up all their passion on their win over UCLA two days before.)

On this night, there was no denying that Baylor was the better team.

The Zags were, sadly, the losers.

But then I stuck around long enough to catch the post game interview with Gonzaga coach Mark Few.

And as Few spoke, I found my spirits being lifted.

The more Coach Few talked, the more I could tell he was a man of character and healthy perspective.

-He graciously congratulated Baylor on their victory.

-He spoke of his love for his players and how he sought to encourage them in the face of a loss on national TV.

-He marveled that his team could actually win 31 games in one season, and saw it as a gift to be enjoyed rather than grow bitter because of one loss.

-He told his players that the difficult emotions they were experiencing would pass.

Coach Few didn’t come across crestfallen, but grateful. He displayed an air of peace, joy and humility.

Interesting, so much of the Sermon on the Mount of which I was studying is about living differently than the rest of the world.

-Its a call to make peace rather than fight

-Its the challenge to go the extra mile

-Its the invitation to be people of our word

-Its Jesus summoning us to shine like lights in a dark world

-Its a bid for us live humbly in a world filled with pride

One can’t read Jesus’ sermon without realizing it’s a call to live in contrast to how people typically live.

A lot like how Mark Few displayed himself during the post-game interview.

My hunch was that Coach Mark Few would follow in the footsteps of many other coaches who have confronted loss with anger, frustration, blame or defiance.

But what I saw was more than good sportsmanship. I believe I was witnessing deep character being revealed.

Few offered a fresh perspective that I imagine his players couldn’t help but notice.

And because Coach Few was placed on the national stage, we also got to see the type of man he is: a winner in the face of losing.