“A team will always appreciate a great individual if he’s willing to sacrifice for the group… You can’t win if you don’t play as a unit.” - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Basketball Hall of Fame Center
Hebrews 11:24-26 NLT - It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.
Moses was taken away from his Jewish birth-parents and adopted by an Egyptian princess. There was nobody else in his new family, schooling, and social sphere who worshiped and followed the one true God. Those in his adopted world apparently tempted Moses to sin with them (peer pressure). But Moses trusted God, and he refused to accept the names and labels that the Egyptians gave him. Even though it was an easier path - one that offered popularity and pleasure, Moses refused. He chose to “share the oppression of God’s people instead.” Moses was in a unique position to help God’s team win even though they were on a bad losing streak. Yet this Jewish star player could only help the team by sacrificing his privileged position and the pleasures of the ungodly.
Whenever a team - including a church, or a small group, or a ministry team - becomes about the individual rather than winning, of course it will become just another routine at best or a a drudgery at worst. What Hall of Fame ball players (and successful businesses, churches, and military leaders) have discovered is that “the secret” of having a great group that achieves greatness is that the team must be more valuable and powerful than any individual. When individuals see a team only for what they can get out of it, they undermine everyone’s success including their own. But when individuals see a team as a vehicle to complete a vision and mission greater than themselves, they contribute to everyone’s success - including their own.
The secret: it’s not about what you get out of God’s team, it’s what you give into it that determines your spiritual benefit and value. Jesus taught the secret when He said, “It is more blessed [baruch/“happy”] to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35) To view churches and God-given, life-giving relationships primarily for what you can get out of them will only undercut your own happiness. But when you put the secret to work, you realize that happiness emerges from your giving of yourself - giving of your talents, your time, your treasure. You “take one for the team”…as often as is necessary. This is the way of Christ and the way of Christian success. You give whatever is needed because you’re part of God’s team fulfilling His purposes. On God’s team, it involves building and accommodating life-giving relationships in a way that helps others find freedom in God. The vision of knowing God more is furthered for you and others when you take one for the team. The mission of helping fellow human beings find freedom from sin, hell, and their “baggage” is furthered when you step up and take one for the team. As the old saying goes: no pain, no gain. There is no better example of that than the cross of Christ, who endured pain to gain us.
Philippians 2:1-5 NIV - Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 4:1-5 NLT - So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. 2 You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. 3 You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols. 4 Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you. 5 But remember that they will have to face God, who will judge everyone, both the living and the dead.