It has been four years since LeBron James broke the hearts of northeast Ohio sports fans. The “King” pursued his desire for basketball championships by joining the Miami Heat. In many ways, James got everything he was looking for.
The question I asked then and the question I ask now is, What win or honor or achievement will be enough? What will satisfy? Is it possible there is a nobler goal for which we should strive?
It is clear LeBron has matured in his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He has demonstrated a great desire to be a blessing to the people of northeast Ohio through charitable giving and as a role model. He has been forgiving to those who called him names and burned his former Cavaliers jersey. The young man wants to mentor others and leave a positive legacy.
Yet, does this admirable maturity alone translate into something of eternal value?
Let us be fair. LeBron James is a poster child for the value of natural ability mixed with hard work and discipline. His strong will and dogged determination can be a wonder to behold. But are these goals by themselves what we should teach people to desire? Success and good qualities can mask the potential emptiness of such a pursuit.
It is easy to get caught up in running really hard for things that won’t matter in eternity. Money can be very useful but it can’t get anyone to heaven. Fame can be nice but it will not save anyone’s soul. Charitable acts and giving back to the community are commendable and to be practiced. Yet those things won’t please God unless they are performed by someone who has been redeemed by Jesus. How sad it is if any man might gain all the world has to offer and lose his soul?
After all these years I find the desire for worldly success nibbling at the corners of my heart. Would northeast Ohio care if I made a “decision” to leave in order to pursue fulfillment? Would they clamor to get me back and celebrate in the streets at my return? No, but the difference people like you and I make can only be accurately measured in eternity.
Just recently I walked my daughter down the aisle and then performed her wedding. I reminded her and her fiancé of the amazing value of marriage, family and fidelity. I talked about the purpose of God and hopefully encouraged them to live for the glory of God. It did not make the front page of the paper. But it is possible that what they have learned from God through me and through others who know Jesus will help them join with the true “King” in an everlasting victory.
I hope LeBron brings a championship or two to the Cleveland Cavaliers. I am glad there are hundreds of children who will be educated and cared for through his foundation and other charitable work. But I pray that one day we will see the dogged determination James has for the pursuit of earthly crowns be matched by a desire for souls to be brought into the Kingdom of God. Then we will celebrate with LeBron victories that truly satisfy.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Gray, a former president of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, is pastor of First Baptist Church in Garrettsville, located about 35 miles from Akron, LeBron’s hometown, and 45 miles from Cleveland.)