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Young People, Remember Those Who Came Before You

I love sports, especially football. I do not love the obsession bordering on idolatry sports sometimes creates in our culture, with grown men spending hours when they should be working at their real job playing fantasy sports, for instance. But sports can teach a lot. And the Scripture has more than a few illusions to sports, including the marathon motif in one of my favorite verses, Philippians 3:14.

The NBA season began belatedly on Christmas Day. I caught some of the action. The best part of the viewing for me was the greatest basketball commercial I have ever seen (apologies to Spike Lee and MJ). The commercial, shown below, features the combination of the greats of my youth (and earlier) with the stars of today. Yes, it is simply a commercial that promotes the NBA on TNT. But it, like sports does at times, brings just a little bit more.

Young people, in your haste to make a difference, to change the world, to live for Jesus, do not forget those who went before you. The best at understanding movements today are those who know well their history. This is why I will never read enough biographies, because they inspire me and often convict me. Remember your own role models, your heroes, those who loved you, mentored you, and showed you how to live.

No, you do not have to do everything just like them. Please do not. Please do not confuse the surface of these NBA players, like the style of the jerseys, for their ability to play the game well in their time. Some things do not change: in basketball the goal is still, well, to make a goal. If you are a young adult following Christ, learn from your heroes while following Christ. His gospel does not change, but chart your way for your time by God’s guidance, for we humans tend to confuse the timeless with the timely, and our preferences sometimes get in the way of gospel truth.

Enjoy the commercial, but even as you do and as you look to a new calendar year do so with a robust awareness of those who came before. And remember, those who come after you may well look to you for guidance, too.

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Alvin L. Reid (born 1959) serves as Professor of Evangelism and Student Ministry at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he has been since 1995. He is also the founding Bailey Smith Chair of Evangelism. Alvin and his wife Michelle have two children: Joshua, a senior at The College at Southeastern, and Hannah, a senior at Wake Forest Rolesville High School. Recently he became more focused at ministry in his local church by being named Young Professionals Director at Richland Creek Community Church. Alvin holds the M.Div and the Ph.D with a major in evangelism from Southwestern Seminary, and the B.A. from Samford University. He has spoken at a variety of conferences in almost every state and continent, and in over 2000 churches, colleges, conferences and events across the United States.