Rings_photo One of the buzz words over the last few days of media coverage of the NBA Finals is "clutch." When people use the word, they acknowledge that some situations are more important than others. This is true. In such situations, we admire greatly those who are at their best when the temperature rises or the stakes are high. I have no problem with that.

My problem is when we exaggerate or misunderstand what it means to be clutch.

Most of my favorite athletes and teams took a while to win championships. Dirk Nowitzki, Phil Mickelson, John Elway, etc., and some who never won them (like Tony Gwynn). Thus, I've followed the careers of these athletes and watched the media harpoon them one day for "not being able to win big one," and treat them like gods the next. This whole thing is ridiculous to me. There isn't a more exaggerated measuring stick than championships won in team sports. Many of the people we consider "clutch" flop in such a position numerous times before and after their infamous ring – like Magic, Bird, Tiger, Tom Brady, etc. The truth is, no one is always "clutch." And, not everyone with a ring is really a champion. There are the rookies who didn't play a single minute that season but get the ring. They aren't more of a champion than Karl Malone, Dan Marino or Charles Barkley just because they have a ring.

"Clutch" is when a person is faithful or excellent under difficult or high-stakes circumstances. It's worthy of admiration. However, we need to understand that games are dramatically impacted by a wide variety of variables, and every athlete comes through numerous times "in the clutch" just to make it to the big game or series. The calls the officials make, injury, the way one's teammates play, the quality of competition one plays against in the big game, the coach one plays for, and a host of other reasons play a role in whether one wins the big game or even gets the chance to play in it. It may be that the most "clutch" player in the NBA is unknown for his "clutchness" simply because he plays for the Timberwolves and thus will never play in the big game and have the chance to come through in "the clutch" publicly. 

Many of those who are the most effective in ministry are in fact lesser known–but no less clutch. They didn't get certain opportunities, catch certain breaks, have certain pedigree, etc. We must not make the mistake of comparing influence or stage size with "clutch." In ministry, the question is, "Did I do what I could with what God gave me? In Christianity, clutch is, "Did they do what God wanted them to do when it was really difficult to do so?"

We compete for one prize: the "Well Done" of God. Some of you may have not come through when you wish you could have. The good news is, God forgives, and He can empower you to the right thing next time. He can empower us to be "clutch," by:

  • Standing tall for the poor when no one else will.
  • Working diligently when it's easy to mail it in.
  • Standing for integrity when it's easy to cut the corner.
  • Telling the truth when it may mean bad consequences for you.
  • Starting over again when life lies in a pile of smouldering ruins.
  • Taking courageous ministry steps instead of keeping shop.

Many of God's greatest servants actually failed him at very important moments–like Peter, Moses, and David. But, they accepted God's forgiveness and re-surrendered themselves to him. And, you know what? They won the prize. 

Do you think championships won in team sports are overrated or underrated? Is there an equivalent in Christianity?