Where it Went so Wrong

A Powerful Perspective 

I met three girls under the age of 21 with terminal cancer. And I thought I was helping them by talking to them, and they were helping me. So having an understanding of what life is really all about, and watching a girl die and smiling and enjoying her life… That’s what it’s really all about. And having that faith and understanding… You know, the other thing is, you always hear about people give glory to God and say thank you when they’re holding a trophy. But you never really hear in times like this. And so, for me it’s an opportunity for me to just sit right where I’m at, and just be faithful. That’s what it’s about.” 

This was from a post-game interview with Joe Mazzula, Head Coach of the Boston Celtics, after their Game 5 loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals a couple weeks ago. Where does he get that type of perspective, and how does that effect how he lives his life? Coaches his team? Handles being a dad and husband?

Hard Questions

It is easy to thank God and tell everyone how blessed we are when we are winning a championship.

  • But how do we respond when things don’t go our way.? Aren’t those blessings too?
  • Am I really ready to fully commit and trust God’s plan for my life, even if it means I don’t get the things I want so much?
  • I don’t get that pro-career?
  • I don’t win that championship?
  • When the world treats me unfairly?
  • Are we so “glory empty” and unsure of our value and significance that we can’t handle failure?
  • Does this search for meaning and validation drive us to become more and more selfish?
  • Is the best way to live really, “I have to get mine. It’s me against the world.” Or is there something bigger than you?
  • How will trusting Christ and the value He placed on my life on the cross bring peace, purpose and meaning to my heart?

Challenging Answers – Challenging Identity

Philippians 2:2-3In Philippians Paul shows us. In Chapter 2, verse 3 he tells us to “do nothing out of selfishness or empty conceit” – that’s that ‘glory emptiness’ that controls our hearts. Instead we should “with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than ourselves; not merely looking out for your own interests, but also for the interest of others.”

What a great coach I would be, if I could just let go of striving for value and recognition and significance in wins and losses and my accomplishments as a coach, because I have already found those things in Christ.

If my true meaning and worth is fixed firmly on something that will never change, despite my circumstances.

What if I could let go of the stress of winning and loosing and my reputation, and be free to focus on what God has called me to be as a coach… To love my players the way He loves me, and try every day to make them better players, better people, better leaders, better husbands, better dads, better friends, better teammates. If every decision I made was about loving them and making them more like Christ.

Would I handle losses or bad calls by a ref differently if my primary goal was to glorify God first, and I trusted Him to take care of the rest?

How would it change you as a player if you could let go of the ‘glory emptiness’ in your heart, and just focused on being a great teammate. How much better, how free would you play if you could stop stressing about YOUR career and YOUR reputation and YOUR points? Instead, compete and leave it all on the floor — for God’s glory, because you have already found your security and value in what Jesus says about you?

The Self-Validation Myth

At this point, some would say that we are really only talking about insecure people with low self-esteem who are trying to find approval from others. These people would go on to say that only YOU can find significance in yourself. You have to decide to love yourself. You decide your value. You shouldn’t be trying to get it from anyone else or prove yourself to anyone else anyway.

If they are right, why is mental health and substance abuse such a big issue in professional sports and high-level business people? Aren’t they the best of the best, the ones who have it figured out? Why would they still be ‘glory-empty’? Why is suicide so prevalent in the ‘top-end’ of society? The San Fransisco Federal Reserve found that people who earn 10% less than their neighbors are 4.5% more likely to commit suicide, regardless of neighborhood or social class.

Every physiology and sociology expert agrees on the answer – only if you get love, approval, and esteem from someone or something you esteem, will you ever have real self-esteem.

But that’s the problem. If we are constantly out there trying to get validation and significance from someone or something else to fill this ‘glory emptiness’ in our hearts, we will start to feel like a hamster on a treadmill.

Is Church the Answer?

This affects the church too! In fact, religious people are often the most insecure and judgmental ones. We have just found a more ‘socially acceptable way’ to manipulate others and God into a false sense of significance and self-worth. We are often the most fake, and put on the most masks when we go out into public. We think if we follow all the rules, if we serve more, if we pray more passionately, then God will love us and people will praise us. But have we obeyed enough rules? Have we given enough? Have we served enough? Maybe more significantly, what if someone ever saw behind all ours masks – saw who we really are?

I believe that Bible has the answer! The answer for why we our society can be so selfish and insecure. The answer to where this ‘glory emptiness’ comes from. And how we can find true peace, purpose, and meaning for our hearts.

The Bible tells us that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ in God’s image, for God’s glory. But we have turned away from Him, and as a result there is an infinite-sized vacuum in us that can only be filled with the smile of the infinite God – with His delight and love alone! Everything else comes up short.

Where it Went So Wrong

To see where it all started, we have to go all the way back in Genesis 3, to the first place ‘shame’ was mentioned in the Bible. In Chapter 1, God told Adam and Eve they were completely free to enjoy the garden.

He only gave them one rule – they were not allowed to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil or they would certainly die.


In Genesis 3:4, Satan told the woman, “You will not certainly die… your eyes will be opened” — you won’t die, you will actually be better, you will truly see for the first time, your horizons will be opened. This was in direct contradiction to what God had told them

It is interesting that Satan didn’t go after the existents of God. He didn’t target their belief in God. Even today this isn’t his main strategy, as evidence by the fact that most of the world believes in the existence of God.

It is also interesting that God didn’t give Adam and Eve any reason for why they were not suppose to eat the fruit. He didn’t say it’s high in carbs and sugars that will eventually cause a heart attack. He didn’t say the juice was poisonous. Staying athletic and healthy might have been reason enough for Adam and Eve. He didn’t tell them that all humanity, their relationship with Him, and all relationships in history would suffer. He simply said, “Don’t do it or you will die.”

temptation of adam and eve – EpicPew

What is God doing?

He didn’t tell Adam and Eve why because then they might obey simply because they think it is good for them. But that isn’t true obedience. It is self-interested compliance. He is asking them to trust Him. He is saying, “I don’t want you to eat because I am asking you too. Obey me just because you love me and trust my love for you.”

And that is exactly what the serpent goes after. He performs a character assassination, and places the most self-destructive lie of all time in our hearts. The serpent says, “You can’t trust God. You can’t trust His love. You can’t trust His best intentions and pure love for you. If you obey God, He will just keep you down, you will miss out on opportunities and fun and all this world can really give you. You won’t be all you can be.”

The Result?


This is the first time Adam and Eve were embarrassed by who they were and hid. This was the first time they covered up, started wearing masks because they didn’t want the world to see them for who they really were. The first time they didn’t feel like they measured up, felt unlovable. This is also the first time they started making excuses, pointing fingers because they couldn’t handle looking in the mirror. The first time their relationship with God, with the world around them, and even with each other began to unravel. 

Because we can’t trust God, because we can’t trust His love for us, We can’t give ourselves completely to Him. We can’t risk complete surrender, completely rest in His love, in His plans for us, and what He says we are. So we have to take our lives into our own hands.

The Self-Reliance Myth

“I have to get mine. It’s me against the world. It’s me against God. No one is going to save me except me!”

That has become the mantra of the world. That is the lie of the serpent that has passed into every human heart throughout history, whether you believe in God or not. That lie is the seed of unrest, broken relationships, fighting, wars, and an insatiable ‘glory-emptiness’ in the heart of humanity.

  • How has this lie affected you and me?
  • How has this lie influenced how we interact with the world around us?
  • How has this lie penetrated our hearts, and effected the most important relationships in our lives?
  • How has this lie colored how we deal with challenges? Colored our perspective on what seems to be set-backs and broken dreams in our lives?
  • How has this lie completely changed our identity and were we find true meaning and peace in this world?
  • What do we do about it?
  • How do we get a heart that makes peace?
  • How do we unroot this lie that has been planted so deep in our hearts, and find our identity in Christ – fulling our hearts with rest and purpose?

Mike Mai | News Release Basketball
Mike Mai | News Release Basketball

Mike has been part of NRB for 20+ years. For the past 16+ years he has been been a professional basketball coach in Germany at nearly every level.