The last time I played in a men’s summer basketball league about 15 years ago, I had the chance to play in a big game. It was a game during the regular season, and our team was playing the first-place team, a team that was undefeated. They were the champions. These guys had played together for, oh, about 15 years. Their starting five had all played on the local high school team back in the day. Two of their guys were 6 foot 6, another guy about 6-5. One of them had just finished playing football at Boston College. They were big, quick, experienced – they were good.
Our team? We were a piece-meal team. We were put together at the last week before the season started, and sometimes some of the guys couldn’t make it. Usually, we had four ex-drug dealers, a 19-year-old YMCA coach, and me, an engineering grad student at the time. I was the only guy who had played high school, and they wanted me because I could play, especially for shooting. I had a reputation for being a dead-eye shooter.
So the big game starts, and we are hanging with the champions. Guys are stepping up and having big games for us, the other team is a little off their game. So, it gets down to the final 8 seconds or so and the game is tied. The other team is at the free throw line and hits both of the free throws. Right away the ball is inbounded to our point guard to bring the ball up. No timeout, just go. Now there’s a lot of commotion and confusion, and I’m coming up the left side of the court with the point guard.
For some reason, the other team forgot about me. I don’t remember fully, but I think I had hit a few three-pointers already in the game – they knew me. But they forgot. Well, the point guard made his way up and passed the ball to me – I was wide open right at the 3-point line, nothing but me and the hoop. In one motion I caught it and shot … swish. The whistle blew – end of game. We won by one. The champions fell. The celebration – and the story telling – began.
How did I get to be a dead-eye shooter? Two things. First, God gave me a great gift: a love for basketball. Second, I delved into basketball with all I had. As a boy I played a lot, and by the time I was in 8th grade, I was playing everyday. My Spanish teacher complained that I played too much basketball. In the summer, I played twice a day. When all the other kids were at the beach or just wasting time, I was on the court all alone practicing, sometimes in 90-degree weather. I knew all about the game, all about basketballs and sneakers, the good ones, the right fit and feel, how to take care of them. I even took my basketball to bed with me. The shot I hit? I had taken it hundreds of times before. I loved basketball, and I played it over and over.
I put my whole self into what I loved. That’s how I became dead-eye.
Remember the story of David and Goliath? Goliath is the big bully who is threatening God’s people. He’s Mr. Fear. Little David shows up and says, “I’ll knock him off.” Now, he goes to fight this huge man who has been a war man all his life, is covered from head to toe with armor and armed with giant weapons, and has another guy walking in front of him carrying a shield. Everyone else is terrified of him, and David walks out there with no armor at all. All he’s got is his sling shot and a couple of stones.
It sounds insane, right? Where does he get all this confidence?
He sees that there’s one hole in Goliath’s armor, one tiny little spot in all the defenses that is vulnerable: his eyes.
And David looks at himself and knows, I’m the one who is dead-eye with the slingshot.
This is God’s test. This is His fight. Fear is about to collapse.
“You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down, and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the hosts of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s and he will give you into our hand.” (1 Sam 17:35-47)
One shot, right between the eyes.
How did David become dead-eye?
First, God gave him a great gift: a love for the slingshot. Second, he delved into it with all he had. What is he doing all the while that he’s shepherding his father’s flock, while all the other shepherds are looking for relax time? Mastering the slingshot. I bet he even slept with it. I bet he knew all about little stones, how the different shapes and sizes and types would go through the air, which ones were accurate and fast. He knew all the different materials for the sling rope and the cup shape. He knew how to take care of the slingshot. It’s what he loved, and he valued it.
He put his whole self into what he loved. That’s how he became dead-eye.
What do you love? What are the things in your life that you delve into with all your heart? God is looking for someone with those talents. He has a situation prepared for you, a chance to be in His fight, a chance to knock down fear in the world.
Will you give yourself to His service?
Will you be His dead-eye?