Last Friday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers took a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals over the Boston Celtics with an embarrassing 40+ point win. Boston couldn’t do anything, and it looked as if they had just completely given up. I, along with just about anyone that I heard say anything about the series assumed it was over. Cleveland, who had won both of the first two games in Boston, was coming home and was going to easily win the next two games to sweep the series and go to the NBA Finals. There was little doubt, especially since Boston’s star player had been ruled out for the rest of the playoffs due to an injury in the first half of game two.
The problem is that Cleveland seemed to take this for granted as well. They seemed to just assume they had the series won, and it was going to easily fall to them. And during the first half of game three on Sunday, that is exactly what seemed to be happening. The Cavaliers took a commanding 21-pt lead at one point, entering halftime with a 16-point lead. I actually stopped watching the game at that point, helping out with something else around the house. I thought the game was over.
That is, until the fourth quarter started and I happened to glance at the game again. That huge halftime lead had been cut to single digits. So, I started watching the game again, hoping that the Cavs would hold on and start playing with some purpose again. But that didn’t happen. Boston, who looked completely out of the series and ready for the off-season fought back and hit a game-winning three-point shot with .01 seconds left. LeBron James, who played the entire fourth quarter, went scoreless in it. If you follow basketball at all, you know that is something that rarely happens.
So what happened? How did a team that was dominating the entire playoffs, and especially this series, give up a 21-point lead to allow Boston to steal a game in Cleveland? It’s a pretty simple explanation, and it is definitely something that we, as Christ followers, can learn a lot from as well.
Cleveland lost their focus. They got wrapped up in assuming the series was won (and more than likely it really is, but this loss is embarrassing). They forgot that Boston is a team that can play with a lot of pride, skill, and heart. They didn’t show that in game two, but they did Sunday night.
Cleveland got caught with a lack of focus because they thought the war (series) was over. And because of that, they lost the battle in front of them. There is a cautionary tale in that for us as Christ followers. We know that in the end, God wins. Jesus has already defeated sin and death, and for us that is a very hopeful thing. But when we lose our focus, we can still lose a battle here and there. And what is our focus on? It should be on Jesus, and trying to become more and more like Him on a daily basis. And it should be on building relationships with people that do not know Him yet, in an effort to introduce them to Him. Because without Him, these people will be casualties in the spiritual battle taking place.
I have written and talked a lot in the past few months about living a life on mission. Tim Harlow’s book, Life on Mission has had a huge impact on how I see my day to day life. I (we) need to be living intentionally, building relationships with those around us in order to eventually tell them about Jesus. We have a mission…making and growing disciples. Simple as that. But what happens when we lose focus on our mission? What happens when we think, “Oh, the war has been won. Jesus defeated death and sin. God wins!” and forget that while that is true, we still have battles to fight in this life? It isn’t us who saves anyone, but God may use you to help bring someone to Him.
I’ve written this in more detail before, but I want to remind you of what I mean by “Crosseyed Jesus Freak”. “Jesus Freak” again comes from my love of dc Talk, and their famous rock song “Jesus Freak”. Just trying to live my life really not caring if anyone makes fun of me for loving Jesus. I’m going to live my life completely on fire for Him, at least as much as possible. But it’s the “Crosseyed” part that I want to focus on today. That comes from Hebrews 12:1-3 (italics mine).
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful me, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus. That’s the key. When we lose our focus, we need to become crosseyed again, fixing our eyes on Jesus. It’s then and only then that the rest of the world and our mission comes into focus. It’s not something we can do on our own. We need to be focused on Jesus to truly live this life on mission that we, as Christ followers, are called to live out. Lost your focus? We all do from time to time. Join me in becoming crosseyed!