What LeBron Is Feeling Now

I’ve never met LeBron James, and I probably never will. So I guess it’s presumptuous to tell you how he’s feeling after winning his second straight NBA title and MVP award.

But I will tell you anyway, because there’s a lesson here.

Reading between the lines of various comments LeBron has made, you can see he has a chip on his shoulder. He’s had many detractors since entering the NBA, especially after failing to win championships with the Cleveland Cavaliers. And then he was criticized for his decision to movie to South Beach in pursuit of a championship with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and the Miami Heat.

Even after winning the Heat won the championship last season, the critics didn’t go away. Nor did LeBron lose the chip on his shoulder.

One championship wasn’t enough. LeBron still had to prove something.

It has never been enough to display his spectacular physical attributes or be considered the best basketball player on the planet. LeBron had to win championships—lots of championships. Especially since everyone keeps comparing him to Michael Jordan.

How would you  like to be competing with the ghost of Michael Jordan? That would be a tough assignment for anyone, especially if their entire identity was wrapped around the game of basketball.

So LeBron has worked hard. Yes, he has had an “attitude,” but he has used it well—to motivate him to keep improving his game. Several times in this year’s championship run, he almost singlehandedly snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat. Kudos, LeBron.

So he has every right to be extremely happy…proud…ecstatic about what he has achieved.

But here’s the sad part: Despite his amazing accomplishments, the great King James isn’t feeling so great. At least not right now.

This is actually quite predictable. Yet I’m sure LeBron is feeling baffled by his melancholic reaction to his amazing success—especially when surrounded by people who assure him he should be  quite pleased with himself.

Instead of euphoria, here’s what LeBron is feeling at the moment: After two NBA titles, two MVP awards, and even an Olympic gold medal, it’s still not enough. After all of his superhuman efforts, there are still detractors out there. Michael Jordan still  has more championships, and it looks ever-harder to surpass his record.

Within days, if not hours, of his new championship, LeBron looks ahead to having to get on the treadmill of achievement once again. How can he keep doing this, again and again and again? Will it ever  be enough? Will he ever  feel truly satisfied…truly good about himself?

And what will happen when LeBron’s basketball days one day come to a close? Will his self-image as a person be able to make the harsh transition from Superman to Clark Kent?

Although I haven’t always cheered for LeBron on the basketball court, I am pulling for him as a person. Yet in some ways I find myself feeling sorry for him. It’s an awful thing to be on an endless treadmill of trying to feel good about yourself…and the treadmill of proving something to your critics.

I’m praying for LeBron to find deep peace and satisfaction at last. But I know he won’t find contentment on the basis of accomplishments alone. Nor will it come because all the naysayers have become convinced of his worth.

But LeBron’s predicament is actually a challenging lesson for all of us. Are we still trying to prove something, to ourselves or to others? Are we still on a never-ending treadmill, unable to find true inner contentment?

The message today—whether to LeBron James, to you, and to me—is found in the wise words of Augustine: You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

So if you don’t seem likely to win an NBA championship anytime soon, that’s okay. Lasting satisfaction and fulfillment will always prove elusive if they are based on our accomplishments. Instead, they must be found in God’s unconditional affirmation and love. That’s the ultimate ring we should be chasing.

 

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My Visit to a Narcissistic Church

Have you ever visited a narcissistic church? Even worse, do you attend—or perhaps lead—a congregation that is self-absorbed and in love with itself?

Not long ago, I had the unpleasant experience of visiting such a place. I had heard good things about this church, and I had high hopes for what I would find there. And lately I’ve been trying really hard  to see the good and not be critical toward other believers.

Of course, you probably wonder how I knew  the church was narcissistic. For one thing, the name of the church and the name of the pastor were mentioned about 10 or 15 times more than the name of Jesus. So even though there was considerable evidence that people were in love with their church, I had a much harder time finding evidence of their love for the Lord.

On one level, it’s certainly a good  thing that people take pride in their church and their pastor. I’ve met some Christians who are ashamed to tell me where they go to church—a clear indicator that the church has low morale and a downward trajectory.

However, what about Paul’s statement to the Corinthians? “We do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake”  (2 Corinthians 4:5). When the church itself  becomes the message, or our focal point is the pastor instead Jesus, it’s a sure sign we’ve become narcissistic.

And although I realize churches may want to market themselves and let the surrounding community know they are there, shouldn’t we beware not to follow the motivation of the men who built the Tower of Babel: trying to make a name for ourselves?  (Genesis 11:1-9)

After my visit to the narcissistic church, I’ve had to search my own heart and ask God to give me a sincere desire to see HIM lifted up: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory”  (Psalm 115:1). As John the Baptist recognized, Jesus only will increase  if we allow ourselves to decrease  (John 3:30). Help us, Lord.

I was grieved by one additional observation about the narcissistic church: There was absolutely no evidence of God’s presence or anything supernatural. In other words, everything that took place in the worship service could easily have been attributed to human effort instead of any involvement of the Holy Spirit. The singers sang, the musicians played, the preacher preached—but where was God  in any of it?

You see, the church is called to be much more than a social club or humanitarian organization. If we’re no different than the Moose Club or Kiwanis, we’re in big trouble. Shouldn’t we reflect our glorious design to be “built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit”? (Ephesians 2:22)

Yes, I understand the need to be culturally relevant and able to reach “seekers” and unbelievers with the gospel. But shouldn’t the Holy Spirit be involved in the process? How will lost people be persuaded to become disciples of Jesus Christ if we’re content just to “play church”?

One of the signs of the End Times is that many people will be narcissistic, even in the church: “lovers of themselves…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power”  (2 Timothy 3:1-7). So what’s the antidote for this terrible malady? My prayer since visiting the narcissistic church is that I will die to myself and fall in love with Jesus more than ever before.

I’ve also been praying for renewed evidence of the Holy Spirit’s fruit and power in my life. Shouldn’t we expect that Paul’s example would also be true of us today? “My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God”  (1 Corinthians 2:4-5).

Are you content with your Christian life right now? I’m surely not.

Rather than allowing me to remain judgmental toward others, God is challenging me to deal with my own narcissistic heart and lack of spiritual power. Are you willing to join me on this uncomfortable—but necessary—pathway to revival?

 

 

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