The NBA season starts in just one week and for the first time in several years there is hope for my Philadelphia 76ers to make the playoffs. Beyond that, there is a hope for the first time in many more years than that, that the Sixers could be building a championship caliber team. While there is just as much chance that everything could blow up in their face, this is the first time in a long time where the light at the end of the tunnel is clearly visible.
I have written a couple times before about “The Process” the Sixers have undertaken over the past few years. The linchpin of this process is Joel Embiid, all 7’2″, 260 lbs. of him. Embiid, who has taken on the name of The Process as his own, has the potential of being an all-time great. He also has played only 31 out of a possible 246 games over his first 3 years in the NBA due to various significant injuries. But in those 31 games he played just this past season, he flashed some serious skill and ability. If only he can stay healthy, cries the entirety of Sixers fandom!
Just a couple days ago, the Sixers committed a contract to Embiid in the maximum amount they are allowed under the rules of the NBA. That means Embiid will be receiving $148 million over 5 years from the Sixers after this year. Silly and unfathomable money to the rest of us, but this is the reality of professional sports. For purposes of this writing, rather then dwell on just how much money these professional athletes make, I want to focus on the Sixers’ actions in offering this contract. Because along with a maximum amount teams are allowed to pay individual players, there is also a salary cap in the NBA which limits how much each team can pay collectively for all their players each season. So teams must decide how much they are willing to spend on each player they want to try to get or maintain on their team, because no team is allowed the money to just sign whoever they want for whatever amount they want. Once a couple big contracts are given out, there are (relatively) limited funds to fill out the rest of the team. So when teams commit a max contract to an individual player, they better be quite sure about that player or else they can hamstring the rest of the franchise if the player turns out not to be worth it.
And so despite Joel Embiid’s substantial injury history, the Sixers are saying they believe he is worth it and they are committing a significant amount of the team’s future to him. If Embiid plays only 31 games over the next 3 years, the Sixers will be in a world of hurt. They may not be as bad as they have been over the past several years due to some of the other good young players they have acquired during that time period, but they likely will fall well short of any championship aspirations. And they will be limited as to what other players they can pursue due to the big contract doled out to Embiid. Still, the Sixers are saying he is worth it. And despite some salary cap protections that are reportedly included in the contract to hedge against injury, the team is still taking a big risk. Team ownership, management, and all their fans fervently pray that Joel Embiid can stay healthy!
As Christians, when we say we trust God, it sometimes sure does feel like we’re taking some risks. We take things that we have come to realize that we can’t command control over and place our trust in God to see them through. And yet, it sometimes feels like God is only showing up 31 out of the 246 times we need Him. Sometimes the percentages seem even worse. When we see all these terrible things happening in the world or to our loved ones or when we are struggling with our own personal troubles and dilemmas, it can feel way too often as if God is just sitting on the sidelines, unable or unwilling to act.
And it sure feels like a risk to continue to trust Him. At times we’d rather just do our best at handling things on our own without being left to dangle in the wind on any improbable hope that God is going to show up this time. We’ve got plenty of stories we can tell where this would appear to be the case. It frequently would seem much better not to commit to some max contract of faith in God and just work through things the best we can on our own or with the help of others, rather than getting our hopes up that God is going to do something.
Now, part of us knows that this isn’t true. We are reminded and comforted with many words in Scripture that God will never leave or forsake us. There is an innate part of our faith where we know these things to be true. We know that God is not just sitting on the sidelines with a broken foot, but is sovereignly in control over all, even if we often can’t figure out the how, when, where, or why. But there are other parts of us who want those protections built into the contract for when things do not play out the way we think they should and when it appears as if God hasn’t shown up. Sometimes we may feel like we don’t want the contract at all.
The bottom line is that God is the one has committed a max contract to us despite all of our injuries and sins and other shortcomings. We are the ones who really only come through 31 out of 246 times, if that, and yet God is not deterred. He signed His contract……. in blood……. on the Cross. God was the one willing to take the risk and say we are worth it. That we are worth every last dollar of excruciating pain and anguish built into this max contract with no salary cap in sight.
As we labor through the struggles of life, may we remember the Sacrifice that was made to bestow a contract upon us for which we are woefully unworthy, and yet is given in glorious and astounding love. Even when and most especially when we feel abandoned and can’t make sense of things happening around us. The contract has been signed in His blood……. it cannot fail.