Basketball changed my perspective on the concept of faith. I've been a member of Marshall Christian School’s varsity girls basketball team for several years. Our past four seasons resulted in one final four title and three state runner-up titles. My team and I learned many lessons through these past four seasons, but the 2015-2016 basketball season was most notable.
After a long bus ride, my team and I arrived at the gym where state playoffs were hosted. We immediately noticed Victory Christian, our opponent in the semifinal game. They were an undefeated team with brick walls for players. Needless to say, we were terrified. My team, the coach, and Mrs. Cody, the high school girls' Bible teacher, headed to the locker room before the game.
Mrs. Cody began to discuss a variety of stories in the Bible. The main example she focused on really grabbed my attention. In 2 Samuel 23:11-12, there was a field of lentils, or peas, where the Israelites and Philistines met. The Israelites fled, but a man named Shammah stayed behind and defended the pea patch. In the end, Shammah defeated the Philistines and gave God the glory. Mrs. Cody encouraged us to "defend our pea patch."
The game against Victory Christian was extremely stressful to play and even watch. At halftime, the score was 31-31. In the fourth quarter, the score was 54-54. Talk about intense. Suddenly, I was fouled with four seconds left on the clock, which meant I had the opportunity to shoot two free throws.
Most people would choke under that pressure, but I had faith in something bigger than myself. I tuned out the crowd and began to pray. I told God I believed I would be rewarded for my faith and that all glory would be given to Him, whether or not I made the free throws. By the grace of God, I made not one, but both free throws. The game ended with a final score of 56-54-- we beat the supposedly "unbeatable" team!
When Mrs. Cody came into the locker room after the game, everyone began to praise God. God had moved one of our mountains-- our next mountain was the state championship game, where we would face a team who had already beaten us once in the regular season.
The next day, we arrived at the gym, entered the locker room, and gave our full attention to Mrs. Cody. She talked about a girl in the Bible named Hannah. She was one of the two wives of a man named Elkanah. The other wife, Peninnah, had many children, whereas Hannah had none. Hannah was frustrated due to her inability to have children, so she began to pray.
She made a vow that if God gave her a son, she would give the son back to Him. God granted Hannah a son; Mrs. Cody encouraged us to have faith like Hannah. We came together and made a vow to God - all glory would be given to God regardless what the scoreboard read at the end of the game.
After warm-ups, the championship game began. Valley Fellowship, our opponent, wanted to win just as much as we did. At the end of the first half, we were down by ten points. We walked to the locker room with a feeling of defeat, but Mrs. Cody encouraged us to keep our faith. God hadn't given up on us, so we didn't need to give up on Him. Mrs. Cody led us in prayer, and we headed back to the gym.
Everything began to fall apart in the third quarter. Doubt crept into our minds, and Valley Fellowship used it to their advantage. The remainder of the game went downhill, ending with a final score of 47-36. Once again, we finished as the state runner-up. Disappointed is an understatement for what we felt.
The atmosphere after the game was different compared to the last state championship we lost. None of us knew what to say, so we looked to Mrs. Cody for guidance. She referred to Hebrews 11:39, which reads, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” God's plan isn't always our plan.
God commended us for our faith, but He allowed us to experience yet another loss. After the first loss, no one gave any glory to God. We reacted with anger and bitterness because our hard work seemed pointless. T
he second loss had the same outcome, but our reactions were completely opposite of last time. The game against Victory Christian taught us to join together in faith and trust God. The state championship game against Valley Fellowship taught us to give God the glory in all circumstances and trust that He has a purpose for everything. Faith is especially necessary in the most difficult of times. It's easy to be faithful when things are easy, but the real challenge is staying faithful when it feels like God isn't there.
Although the 2015-2016 state championship didn't go as we had hoped, a greater lesson was demonstrated. Honestly, the lesson I learned was much more significant to me than a state championship. I realized basketball was temporary, God was eternal, and I was a champion in His eyes.