This happens in sports as well as other parts of life. Batters in baseball go on cold streaks where they can’t seem to hit any pitch. Kickers in football go through cold streaks where everything is wide to the right or left. Basketball players go through times where they just can’t hit a shot. Whole teams go through streaks where they just can’t seem to get a win. One major league baseball manager said, “Losing streaks pile up faster than winning streaks." Losing, or missing on a regular basis can have a negative psychological effect that makes it difficult to break the streak or cycle.
So how do you break a bad streak? Several years ago I ministered as the chaplain for the men’s basketball team at the University of Tennessee. I would sometimes hang out at practice and talk with the players or coaches. One day as a player was getting a rest I asked him this question, “What do you do when you go on a cold streak with your shooting? When you can’t seem to hit anything, what do you do to get back on track?” He looked at me and said, “You take a lay-up. You do something very basic so you can get a ‘win’. When you start hitting, you get your confidence back.”
Take a lay-up? Hmmmm… Take a lay-up. You take the easiest shot in basketball. A lay-up is when you run right up to the basket and lay it up into the rim. It is the highest percentage shot you can take. Basically you can’t miss a lay-up. It has probably a 95% success rate… or higher. You get two points for a close shot that you lay into the basket just like you get for a 17' shot. But the success rate for a 17' shot is going to be around 50% during a game.
So I thought to myself, how does that apply in the spiritual realm? When you can’t seem to hit anything, is there a lesson in the lay-up? What is the lay-up?
Well, I think there is something to the idea that we need to do the basics in the Christian walk. Sometimes we try to be all deep and inspiring, but we can’t seem to get anything right. Perhaps God allows us to fail so that we can learn humility or dependence on Him. Maybe it is so we will go back to trusting the basics. Whatever the reason, at times we can’t seem to get a win in our lives. That is frustrating and discouraging. After a few failures you can wonder if you even have a relationship with God. The enemy likes it when you are in the valley of doubt and despair. That’s where he does some of his best work. If you will go back to the basics, you can start to see success.
So what is a spiritual lay-up? What are the basic things you can do to see some wins in your life? I believe there are several. But they are so basic, you may be overlooking them. We like the flashy. We love the profound. We tend to stay away from the ‘boring’. So we skim past or leave the basics. Some of the basics are praise, prayer, Bible reading, serving, gathering together with other believers for worship or study.
The apostle Paul put it this way…
God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.
Now we ask you, brothers, to give recognition to those who labor among you and lead you in the Lord and admonish you, and to regard them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we exhort you, brothers: warn those who are irresponsible, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.
Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
Don’t stifle the Spirit.
Don’t despise prophecies, but test all things.
Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept sound and blameless for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. (1 Thessalonians 5:9-24)
Are you on a losing streak? Are you missing every shot you take? Do these basic things, knowing that God is the one who will empower you and bring the increase. Are you missing the long-range shot? Take a lay-up today. Pray for peace from the Prince of Peace. Pray for it until you get it. When you feel that wave of peace flow through you, build on that success for the next shot. Pretty soon you will be walking through deep waters again. But never leave the basics. There is power and confidence in the basics.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.