My Chip had his last basketball tournament this past weekend.  I love to watch him play.  Great group of guys.  Fun times.  Sweet memories.

This last tournament went OK.  Lost the first and the last games, won the two in between.  My focus is the first game.

Just gotta say it - we were outmatched.  Now don't get me wrong - we have some good players.  (And the cutest, smartest point guard anywhere around - just sayin)  But this team was clearly superior.  We knew going in to the game that we were seeded against Goliath.  We knew all the Old Testament David stories, and the Syracuse-Boston College games but we had realistic expectations.  We just wanted to play really hard and have the best game we could.  We'd leave the outcome in God's hands.

I was so proud of my boy.  Of all the fellas.  When this team dribbled out onto the court.  we swallowed hard to keep our jaws from dropping.  I'm not implying these boys were too old for high school but I will attest to seeing more facial hair on their starting five than our whole team and fan base combined.  These boys were mature.  And athletic.  They pressed the whole time, did everything but dunk on us, and outscored us by multiples of ten.  (And for the record, our boys said they were nice on the court - they actually enjoyed playing them!)

One might think that it was a hard game to watch.  It certainly could have been.  Except for one thing.  Our boys played to win the whole game.  The other team respected them enough to not let up.  They played against us hard and didn't give us any mercy. 

And our boys never quit.  In spite of the scoreboard, they treated every possession as though it determined the outcome of the game. And we parents cheered our hearts out on the sidelines.  Clapped and yelled the whole game.  Then hugged those sweaty boys tight at the end.  They were well aware that the glint in our eyes in no way conveyed sadness at the loss but instead were droplets of pride that refused to be contained.  They never quit.  In spite of the score.

I was awfully proud.

And very impressed.

And thought about how hard that is to do.  Not only in a basketball game, but especially in life.

I have several friends going through tremendously difficult valleys right now.  A couple of their situations would be classified as "impossible" by most everybody. Nobody at all would blame them for resigning themselves to the situation and just adjusting their lives to "reality".  In fact, they have all been "counseled" to do just that. 

 I marvel at the ability of my friends to hang in there.  Not giving up.  Playing as though they can win in spite of the score.   They're not delusional, mind you.  No more than the fellas on Chip's team.  They know what points are posted.  They know who all's in foul trouble.  And yet they play as hard as they possibly can.  They know very well that the final score may say they "lost" but that's not what they are defining themselves by.  Not the point total but rather the quality of play.

I don't know how they manage to keep on keeping on.  I am sure most, if not all, would give credit to God's grace.  For sure.  I'm proud to know these folks.  Not sure I would adequately appropriate the grace God makes available if I were in their shoes.  They are my heroes.  For sure.

But the point of this post is not so much about the heroes but instead how we on the sidelines can help our friends when they are in those impossible games.  What can we do to keep them from giving up?

Probably lots of things but here's one thought. 

Encourage.  Stand beside them and cheer them on.  They probably have all the advice they need already.  Just clap and cheer and tell them the fight is worth it.  Playing a game against all odds is hard. Many many times it is tempting to just sit down.  Or let the clock run out while you stand there with the ball.   Let them draw strength from yours. Sometimes a text or a call or a visit can make the difference between staying in the game and walking off the court.

Scripture puts it this way-

 From Exodus 17:
And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.
10 So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.
11 And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.
12 But Moses hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

This was one of those impossible battles.  And God's people were losing....unless Moses kept his hands raised, holding the rod of God, symbolic of His power and attributing the glory to Him.  But he got tired.  Try keeping your arms raised above your head for hours.  You'd be weary, too!  His helpers couldn't hold the rod for him.  But they could prop him up.

Wonder what happened to those mighty Amalek warriors?

 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven

They lost.

Let's hold up some hands today.