March is a euphoric time of the year for sports fans in the United States.
The champions of the Super Bowl haven’t quite de-muddied their cleats. The boys of summer are warming up in Spring Training. And college basketball is in full momentum as March Madness sweeps the nation.
One of the most important aspects of basketball (as opposed to slower-paced sports like baseball), is the speed and constant attention required during a 40-minute game. There is no time to let up or hold back. In order to win, all players must be at 100% until the final buzzer.
We can learn some spiritual lessons from the game of basketball about how to keep going and beat burnout.
One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.
Luke 18:1 NLT
It’s unquestionable that we all reach points in our relationship with God where we feel like we need a break or want to quit. When we reach that spot, we’ve hit burnout. God knows that to be in the spiritual fight, we are going to need times of revival.
In what parts of your life are you feeling burnout? (Family relationships, dating, marriage, work life, academics, health)
In what parts of your life do you feel disappointment or obstacles are getting the best of you?
Open Your Eyes
 So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city.  When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.  “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!”  Then Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes and let him see!” The LORD opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.
2 Kings 6:14-17 NLT
When we are in the thick of the struggle, it can be easy to see the seemingly impossible and want to give up. We need God to show us what can’t be seen.
Upsets in basketball are one of the best examples of seeing “what can’t be seen.” One of the greatest upsets in March Madness history was UMBC versus Virginia in 2018. UMBC was number 16, Virginia, number 1. It seemed impossible that UMBC would outplay the Cavaliers, but they would not let up and they held on for the win! UMBC was relentless. College basketball is full of these kinds of underdog stories that are inspiring and remind us that anything is possible.
Watch UMBC vs. Virginia highlights here.
In 2 Kings, Elisha knew the circumstances were impossible from his perspective, but sometimes we need God to help us see what IS possible. We burn out because we look at our life, our personality, and our situations from our own point of view instead of God’s.
What is God trying to show you about the parts of your life that seem impossible to change?
Are you willing to see God’s plan?
How can you look beyond the “now”?
Have a Strong Defense
 The pressure never let up; all the juices of my life dried up.  Then I let it all out; I said, “I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to GOD.” Suddenly the pressure was gone- my guilt dissolved, my sin disappeared.  These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray; when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts we’ll be on high ground, untouched.
Psalm 32:4-6 MSG
The pressures of fitting in, meeting the expectations of people around us, and being weighed down by our own guilt can feel like they never let up. The less we address these pressures, the more they build up, and, as Psalm 32 says, all hell breaks loose. Like in basketball, our spiritual defense needs to be just as strong as our offense, and this means not underestimating the opposing team.
What is your “opposing team”? Do you get taken out by envy, pride, or selfishness? When we see friends getting promotions, taking vacations, and posting 50 photos of the same beach on Facebook, it can be easy to ask ourselves, “What about me?” When we get in this spot, we are susceptible to burning out, unable to handle the burden of being something we are not or something we wish we had.
God wants to strengthen our defense. When we admit where we are really at to ourselves and to God, we gain true strength, so that when “all hell breaks loose,” we can keep moving forward.
What pressures (insecurities, selfishness, jealousy, pride, etc.) are weakening your spiritual defenses?
What can you be honest about with God today so that you aren’t weighed down by those pressures?
When We Lose Heart We Burnout
Anyone will tell you that games in any sport are all part of the bigger picture. In any sport, each game is part of the bigger season. In life, each day is part of a longer spiritual journey. Sometimes we need to get back to a few principles in order to keep our focus.
The Playbook – The Word
The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
1 Samuel 3:1 NIV
God provides a spiritual playbook; it provides answers, direction, and vision. Without the Bible (“the word of the Lord”), we will not be able to anticipate what is ahead. Without vision, we can begin to lose faith and burn out.
How have you drifted from reading and obeying the Bible?
How can you start applying what you learn to your daily life?
Power of Overtime – Prayer
 Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge.  Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?”
Luke 18:6-8 NLT
In this scripture, Jesus emphasizes the importance of using the power of prayer. There’s no doubt that sometimes you are just going to need a little extra time on your side when you’re in the fight. If you watch players after a game goes into overtime, there’s a clear sense of relief for some. It’s just a moment, but at that moment they know they have an extra fighting chance!
Jesus reminds us that prayer is supposed to be our spiritual overtime. Sometimes we need a moment to recover, recompose ourselves, and reassess. When we pray, we can ask God for help and to see his great power that can strengthen us through any situation.
Are you going to God in prayer for refreshment or has prayer become another to-do list item?
How might your prayers be a time for you to “get back up again”?
Be a Team – Do Your Part
 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.  The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work.  For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:7-9 NLT
We burn out when we are trying to do too much on our own. This can leave some of us over-worked and spiritually worn out or overwhelmed and neglectful of our spiritual condition.
(To possibly hit a sore point for some) Duke hasn’t quite been the same without their star, Zion Williamson. There’s no doubt that he has extreme talent, but what you see without him is a team that’s lost part of itself. They don’t quite know how to keep the momentum without their friend and teammate. Without him, something is missing.
Sometimes, as Christians, we can feel this way when we are trying to go it alone. If you feel like you are falling all over yourself and burning out, ask yourself – am I asking for enough help?
What purpose are you and your friends working towards? How are you supporting each other?
What relationships do you need to resolve so you can be a team?
Listen to Williamson and R.J. Barrett talk about their teamwork on the court at the very beginning of the season. Williamson can’t help but smile when he talks about supporting his teammates.
Decide: Choose one of the three areas where you feel you’ve stopped growing. How can you change that area this week?