Follow-Through

You can find some great life principles in playing sports – if you’ve got the right coach. In fact, there are some things that carry from sport to sport in terms of practical significance. I grew up playing baseball, basketball and soccer. I learned all sorts of things like “keep your eye on the ball”, “stick with your man”, and “protect the goal.” These are the sorts of things that eventually come out of the mouths of former athletes when they yell at (oh, excuse me – “coach”) the next generation. Some are more helpful than others.

One that seems fairly universal is this – “watch your follow-through.” In baseball, you have to watch your follow-through as you throw or swing the bat. In basketball, you have to watch your follow-through on your shots and follow your shots for a rebound. In soccer, you have to watch your follow-through as you kick. Your follow-through makes perhaps the major difference on whether or not you get the ball to its intended target.

Nothing could be more true about life and raising up the next generation. We talk a great deal about targets and goals. We all want to raise up a generation who knows, loves, and walks after the Lord Jesus Christ. We even begin laying groundwork for that to happen. Our problem is inevitably the same as in every sport in which I’ve participated – our follow-through.

In Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he exhorts this young leader to keep a close watch on his character, the content of his message, and his collaboration with others. However, Paul leaves Timothy with one further note: “Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see you progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:15-16). In other words, “watch your follow-through.”

It is not easy following through with things. Sometimes our responsibilities seem too hard for us to bear much less continue. Yet, Scripture calls us to “practice”, “immerse”, and “persist.” It is difficult to raise born sinners to know, love and walk after Jesus. We may not always want to spend time with children and teens who wear on our nerves, rub us the wrong way, or openly fight against us. We may want to pass the difficult task on to others so we can live our life in relative peace. Yet, by passing on our responsibility, we are teaching the next generation that it is not important to follow through.

I wasn’t a “natural” at any sport I played. In order for me to succeed, I practiced with my team and listened to the teachings of my coaches. I immersed myself in season and out in developing my skills. I persisted during the hard times even when I felt like giving up. Why? Because I learned that in order to achieve success, I needed to watch my follow-through.

I’m no “natural” when it comes to parenting or leading in the local church. It is tough out there. Yet every day, I’m called by God to take the field and train up my children in the way they should go. As I practice I surely fail, but I learn through my failures. I’m determined not to pass off my responsibility to others or to separate myself from the children and youth under my care. Instead, I immerse myself. I get deep enough in it that I can’t possibly think about heading back. When the going gets tough, the tough persist.

There is a secret to persevering, though. Actually, it’s not a secret, but a spiritual reality. I can do none of this on my own. I can only accomplish this through the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit’s living in me that is the treasure I hold in this jar of clay. The surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (2 Cor. 4:7). God has not only told me to take the field, but He’s promised to go on the field with me.

As we take the field, we would all do well to keep the following scene in mind:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:1-2)

We don’t run a race that our Coach hasn’t already run. He not only ran; He followed through. He not only calls us to take the field; He goes with us into the fight. If we hope to succeed in raising up a generation in the fear of the Lord, we have got to follow His example.

Be strong, and watch your follow-through.

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