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coach with basketball players March 17 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Deuteronomy 9, 10, 11

Preparing for Victory

Happy St. Patrick's Day! It is also March madness time (for those of you who are not American college basketball fans, this is a single elimination tournament of NCAA teams with winning records, or teams who win their regional championships). There are teams in the tournament this year that were not in the tournament last year. Perhaps last year's team did not listen to their coaches, forgot the fundamentals of the game, or did not work together as a team. Perhaps they lacked perseverance, intensity, or faith. Perhaps they were even eliminated because some team members failed a drug test or were academically ineligible to play. For whatever reason, they could not enter the tournament. It is likely, then, that this year's team reviewed the mistakes of last year and set a better course. Now they are in the NCAA tournament, and if they follow their coaching and pay attention to the fundamentals, they could go all the way to the championship game. What does all this have to do with today's Bible study? An analogy is being drawn between entering the tournament and entering the Promised Land. How did God prepare the second generation of Israelites to march to victory and conquer the land? How did he coach them onto victory? What can we learn from him?

Remember, if you are on God's team, not only do you have forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...), God is with you; do not give into fear. The Israelites had a restored relationship with God, but soon they would again be facing giants in the land. The most talented and strongest teams in the NCAA do not always win; even a well coached smaller team can win. Remember that when God is on your side, you have more power than exists in the universe to defeat the giants. When the Israelites went to battle, God promised to destroy their adversaries quickly (Deuteronomy 9:2-3).

Second, remember to be humble. A basketball team can get overconfident and cocky, and this leads to defeat. We can suffer the same way. Instead, think with good sense, not with pride. It was not because of their own righteousness that God was going to give Israelites victory in the new land but because God is faithful to his promises. The Israelites were a stubborn people, and because the first generation of Israelites from Egypt rebelled, would not listen, and did not act in faith (like many bad basketball teams); they failed to go into the land. Instead, they wandered around in the wilderness for forty years until that generation died off. If God is blessing us, we should remember that it is because of his grace that we are winning, not because we are better than those who came before us. Overconfidence and pride lead to defeat.

Third, recommit yourselves to God and repeat the fundamentals. Winning basketball teams commit themselves to following the coach and team philosophy, and then they practice the fundamentals over and over until they get them right. If we want spiritual victory, we must recommit ourselves to the LORD and keep his commands. Israel's allegiance (and our allegiance) must be to God, and they must follow his instructions (part of the general stipulations of the Suzerain Treaty, see more…). Moses spoke to the Israelites,

And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD's commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today. Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. (Deuteronomy 10:12-16, NIV)

Fourth, renew your guard against temptations and distractions. Drugs and sex are two strong temptations of our day, but if we give into almost any temptation we could suffer defeat. In Israel's day, idolatry and sex (they went together) were strong temptations that brought God's anger against them. We must be mentally focused not to get off track. We must follow the right paths and teach our younger teammates to beware; Satan will try to disqualify us.

Fifth, rewards are for those who are faithful to follow God's game plan. God told Israel,

If you carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow-- to love the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways and to hold fast to him-- then the LORD will drive out all these nations before you, and you will dispossess nations larger and stronger than you. Every place where you set your foot will be yours: Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the Euphrates River to the western sea. No man will be able to stand against you. The LORD your God, as he promised you, will put the terror and fear of you on the whole land, wherever you go. (Deuteronomy 11:22-25, NIV)

Like Israel, those who are loyal to God and recommit themselves to his ways, following the fundamentals, guarding against distractions, and persevering in faith will win.

Lessons to live by: To prepare for victory

  • Remember, if you are on God's team, not only do you have forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...), God is with you; do not give into fear.
  • Remember to be humble. Overconfidence and pride lead to defeat.
  • Recommit yourselves to God, and repeat the fundamentals.
  • Renew your guard against temptations and distractions.
  • Rewards are for those who follow God's game plan. Those who are loyal to God and recommit themselves to his ways, following the fundamentals, guarding against distractions, and persevering in faith will win.

Today's Bible memory verse:

Deuteronomy 20:4 “For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” (NIV)

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