(Editor’s note: Find the other blogs for this series and other useful resources HERE.)
Rules can shape the character and souls of those who follow them so choose them carefully. Take, for instance, this one:
“1. Be dressed, on the floor, and ready for practice on time every day. There is no substitute for industriousness and enthusiasm.”
This comes from a document called “UCLA BASKETBALL: John Wooden, Head Coach.” Wooden developed 15 rules over the years and combined them with his definition of success and his Pyramid of Success™ to create a sort of bible for basketball that served him and UCLA well.
“Winning takes talent,” said Wooden, “[and] to repeat takes character.” The UCLA Bruins did repeat – repeatedly. At one point the team built an 88-game winning streak over 1084 days. During his career, Wooden and the Bruins won 10 NCAA championships in a 12-year period. Having seven of them in a row was more than luck. It was competitive greatness, the top brick of his pyramid just slightly lower than the mortar he defined as faith and patience.
Even so, he has shared, “Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters.” As a longtime member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination, God’s influence should be expected.
In addition, his father, Joshua Hugh Wooden, influenced him when he said, “Don’t worry about being better than somebody else, but never cease trying to be the best you can be.” His son finally penned his definition:
“Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of.”
I’ve liked this definition and his pyramid for a long time, but not for as long as he had worked on them. That apparently took him from the age of 24 to 39 – just before or after starting as UCLA’s coach. Here’s a picture from the UCLA archives:
Wooden’s thoughts on success are useful. They help us focus on what we can control – our inner attitudes and the behaviors that flow from them.
Notice the ending of rule one above, "There is no substitute for industriousness and enthusiasm." Those two words became the cornerstones of his pyramid. Here’s how they are listed and explained:
“Industriousness: There is no substitute for work. Worthwhile results come from hard work and careful planning.”
“Enthusiasm: Brushes off upon those with whom you come in contact. You must truly enjoy what you are doing.”
These certainly help anyone regardless of what training field they find themselves in. It's too easy to forget that we often don't rise to our level of expectations but fall to our level of training. As great as Wooden's accomplishments were, we must go deeper and explore or we won't have given our best to the One who matters most.
The good, the bad, and…
The good is God calls us to work (Genesis 2:15), so industriousness should be shoes we are comfortable wearing. Even better is enthusiasm. Some say it comes from the Greek “en theos” meaning the god within. Only Christians can have the one true God living within through the Holy Spirit. Remember, the lover of our souls shapes our souls, and the process is not always easy.
The Holy Spirit isn’t the only way God shapes us. We are given rules to shape our character too. But following them within our best power means nothing without the gift Jesus gives to redeem us. Of the many rules in the Bible, the two Great Commandments that summarize all the Law come to mind:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40 NIV).
The order is incredibly important.
If we get the first Great Commandment wrong, then the second Great Commandment doesn’t help us eternally no matter how well we obey it.
If we get the second Great Commandment wrong, then did we really get the first one right?
If we don’t live these in the order given, then it could be very bad eternally (See Matthew 7:21-23). For those people who end up experiencing what that verse explains, it will be very bad and very ugly.
Thankfully, we have A.W. Tozer to remind and warn us, “Only the work done by a worshiper will have eternity in it” and “To work from the soul, righteously, is to obey God.”
Let’s revisit the foundational verse I’ve used in this series where “heartily” means “from the soul” or “out of the soul.” I’ve used a different translation with an additional verse for clarity:
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:23-24 NKJV).
Christ is the foundational reason for why we do what we do. If work were an acronym related to this, it might stand for “willingly obeying the righteous King.” Did you notice “work” doesn’t actually occur in that verse and translation? It does occur in various forms in the NIV, the NLT, the ESV, the NASB, and others.
Most of the versions, however, include the word “do.” If it were an acronym related to this, it would simply be “diligently obey.” Should we desire the presence of the King of Kings to be ours eternally, then let us delight ourselves in the Lord so He can give us those desires (Psalm 37:4). Let us love Him, trust Him, and obey Him.
By following Him in this way, we can be so much more than just happy in Jesus. We will participate in the spiritual growth (2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Timothy 2:2) and sanctification Jesus desires of us until that time He completes it. Let us do as He guides us with the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:12-13; John 16:13) so we can have spiritual growth as He sanctifies us with His Word (John 17:17).
May the Lord bless and keep you. May His Word fall on protected, good soil in your heart to grow and bless you beyond your imagination.