What Would Jesus Say To…
January 27, 2013
He is arguably one of the greatest athletes in history. And he is undoubtedly one of the most recognized personalities in today’s world. So what does Lebron James have in common with us?
In this message, Ed Young breaks down what Jesus would say to Lebron. And as he relates to where Lebron is and what Lebron faces on the court, we discover the reality that we are all in the same position when it comes to facing our opponents.
I want to teach you guys how to ‘boo’ for a second. I know those of us here in Dallas and Miami we know how to boo, it’s sort of instinctive, but when I count to three on my hand you just begin booing. And then when I do like this just shut it down because we’re gonna boo during today’s talk. <audience booing> Beautiful! Thank you.
Here in Grapevine, here in Fort Worth, here in Dallas, here in Plano, here in Miami South, Miami Midtown, and also Columbia, South Carolina, and also you can boo online as well. Welcome to Fellowship Church! Yeah!
You might think I’m sort of off. You’re saying, Ed, why would you begin today’s message teaching us how to boo or reinforcing booing when we’re talking about one of the greatest athletes who has ever lived, LeBron James? Well, you’ll see in a second. LeBron James is definitely a charismatic individual. So, so talented, he makes tens of millions of dollars. He endorses everything from McDonald’s hamburgers to Nike shoes. From Nike shoes to State Farm Insurance. The guy is stunning! What an amazing personality! He’s had this over-the-top hero worship since he’s been an adolescent. I’ve never studied anybody who has been so gifted at such a young age to receive so much. He flies through the air, does these incredible moves, slam-dunks. He’s fast. He’s quick. He’s massive. He could probably be an all-pro tight end on any NFL pro team if he wanted to. The guy is successful. Think about it. When I say LeBron, just his first name, what do you think about? Success. He is successful. He’s got fame and fortune. He’s a young guy. LeBron. When I say LeBron you think success.
Some people say, “I want to be the LeBron of teachers.” That means you wanna be the best. I want to be the LeBron of pastors. The LeBron of moms. The LeBron of the boardroom. I wanna be LeBron. Just say LeBron. Success, success, success. That’s what it is. What is, though, true success? We might say it’s fame and fortune, but what is success? We’re gonna talk about what that actually means.
LeBron James, on one hand, is the most famous athlete in the world, one could say. On the other hand he’s infamous. Once he choreographed the decision to leave Cleveland and put on a Miami Heat uniform, wow. He began to have some people that didn’t really dig it. So he’s hallowed yet he’s hated. On the back of his body a giant tattoo reads “Chosen♦1.” He’s referred to as King James. He calls himself the King of Akron, that’s Akron, Ohio. As I studied about LeBron, as I read about him, as I looked at some of his quotes and some of the things about him, I really like the guy. I see how much talent and ability that he has. But on the other hand, the more I read, the more I saw what he said, what he posts on Twitter, Instagram, the more concerned I became.
In life, when you’re successful, when I’m successful, not on LeBron’s level, but when we have any measure of success that’s kind of a price tag. That’s kind of something that we have to process. LeBron plays against five of the greatest athletes in the world, 82 games a year. And these athletes, these NBA guys, I think the NBA has the best athletes in the world of all the major sports, these guys are trying to defeat LeBron, to dominate LeBron, every time he steps on the hardwood.
Think about it. They’re after me. And LeBron faces that and he goes to war night after night after night. And he does an incredible job. I would argue that LeBron is facing even more formidable opponents than those people that he faces in arenas all around the country. And I think if you’re successful, again, whether you’re the most successful teacher, the most successful coach, whether you sell the most cars on your lot, if you’re the most successful cheerleader, whatever you do, if you’re successful at any phase, at any stage or age of life, you also are gonna face some forces. But let me say this. If Jesus, if our Lord went one-on-one with LeBron, I think he might say what we’re gonna talk about.
We’ve been learning that when Jesus talked to someone he would use things that everyone could connect with, especially the person or persons he was talking to. We saw him talk to a woman at a well. His word picture – water. “Hey, you’re drinking physical water but let me show you about spiritual water.” A word-picture.
If Jesus sat down and went one-on-one with LeBron he’d probably say, “LeBron, you’re one of the most gifted athletes ever. But, LeBron, those people you face night after night, they’re tough, but I want to share with you some other people, some fatal, fatal people. Some fatal personalities who are trying to take you out.”
OK, having said that we’ll press the pause button. We’re gonna get ready to boo. Are you ready to boo? Are you ready to get your boo on? OK, when I introduce these fatal, fabulous five people, the starting five who are coming against LeBron (and also who are coming against you and me) I want us to boo. I mean, I want the boo-birds to come out at all of our campuses when I introduce these horrendous personalities. Because Jesus would say, “LeBron, these are the five that you better worry about. These fatal guys are gonna come after your success and guess what? They come after my success as well. Are you ready to boo? Let’s go for it.
<announcer voice> And now, introducing the Fatal Fabulous Five, #23, Temptation! Number 8, Arrogance! Number 44, Jealousy! Number 13, Fear! And #32, Betrayal! The coach of the Fab Five, D. Evil Trainer, Landon “Vanilla Ice” Pickering! Let’s give it up for the Fab Five!
<normal voice> Jesus, if he went one-on-one with LeBron would sit down and say, “LeBron, you’re successful. Success like very few people on planet Earth have. Be aware. Be acutely aware of the temptation of success.” Jesus had just been baptized, a spiritual high point in his life, a spiritual victory. He began his public ministry and in Matthew 4:1, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” After this incredible time, after a high point in his life, notice what happened? Temptation. After the NBA Finals, after the All-Star Game, temptation. After you’re Teacher of the Year, temptation. After you’ve closed the major deal, temptation. After you perform the best surgery, after you preach the best message, whatever it is, in any realm, the temptation of success. The enemy came after Jesus after he fasted 40 days and 40 nights, after he’d been baptized, the enemy goes,
“Hey Jesus, turn these stones into bread. Satisfy your hunger.” What did Jesus do? He came back right at him with the word, with the truth. That’s what Jesus did. That’s how he fought off this temptation. Notice, Jesus never performed a miracle for himself. <rewind sound effect> Jesus never performed a miracle for himself. It’s very, very important to understand that. The first temptation, BOOM! Truth.
The second temptation, the devil took him up to the top of the temple.
“Jesus throw yourself off the temple. I mean, you’re gonna come back to life and people will follow you and it’ll be like this Copperfield, Houdini-on-steroids miracle. It’ll be amazing! Do it! Do it!” Jesus said no and came back again with the truth of God’s word.
Then the devil said, OK let me let you take a panoramic view of all of the kingdoms of the world. These can be yours if you’ll bow down and worship me. That temptation is laughable because first of all, the devil does not own or rule the kingdoms of the rule, which is hilarious. Of course, Jesus came back again with the truth. The word. What was the gist, what was the game plan of the enemy? All these temptations have one thing in common and when you’re tempted and I’m tempted… Hey, LeBron when you’re tempted the enemy wants to get us off of our purpose, off of our game plan. The enemy did not want Jesus to live righteously and to die sacrificially and to rise bodily. He wanted him to settle for something good instead of something great. He wanted him to miss success. Temptation. When you’re tempted, when I’m tempted. The enemy attacks us at our greatest strength and at our greatest weakness. He attacks us through power issues. He attacks us through fame and fortune issues. He attacks us through our emotion to take a God-given gift and use it in a God-forbidden way. Temptation.
What is success? LeBron, what is success? I’m not sure if you know exactly what success is. I’m not sure if we know exactly what success is. And I believe Jesus would say success is living in the will of God. That’s success. Say it with me. Success is living in the will of God.
How do you know if you’re in the will of God? It’s simple. The Bible says in Matthew 22:37, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” Love God with the totality of who you are, and then do whatever you want to do. It’s that simple. I love God with the totality of who I am, then I do what I want to do. Why? Because Christ is living in me and through me. There is a synchronization that is taking place. That’s living in the will of God. That is true success. It’s not making tens of millions of dollars, it’s not endorsing McDonalds or Coca-Cola or State Farm Insurance, it’s not buying this or buying that.
And let me say this. Money can’t buy happiness. People say that. That’s not totally accurate. It can buy a little bit of happiness. It can buy a little bit of freedom, but not soul-ish satisfaction. That’s what we’re after. That’s what we’re after. So to say money can’t… no, no, no. We’re after soul-ish satisfaction. So I believe that’s what Jesus would say to LeBron.
I don’t know if LeBron’s a follower of Christ or not. I don’t know. The more, though, I studied about him the more concerned I became. But instead of worrying about LeBron let’s think about our lives. Let’s think about our success. Let’s put the spotlight on us. Temptation will happen. We tackle it with truth, with knowing the truth and the truth will set us free. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and we can use the truth and utilize it to come through any temptation that comes our way.
I think another thing that Jesus would say to LeBron, the second thing, he would talk to LeBron and talk to you and me about the arrogance. The arrogance of success. Is it just me or is it you as well? Whenever something good happens or whenever we have a success story or a moment of – Wow! The wind is at my back, I’m doing something. I’ve closed the deal, I’ve performed the surgery, I’ve done a great job trying the case. I fixed this or done that. I’ve spoken this message or built this church. All of a sudden, is it just me? I did it. Wow! God is… he’s kinda lucky to have me! I am going to take my talent to South Beach. I am gonna take my talent to Dallas/Fort Worth. I am gonna take my talent to Miami. I am gonna take my talent to Columbia, South Carolina, to Fort Worth, to Downtown, to Plano. I am gonna do what I want to do.
We live in a narcissistic world. Pride is not a vice, it’s a virtue. Especially in the world of entertainment, especially online, especially in social media, especially in professional sports. All these guys running around, “I’m the man! Yeah! You know what so many are saying? I never had a father. I have a daddy deficit and I’m trying to hear from other people what I never heard growing up. That’s Lance Armstrong, and I believe it’s LeBron James. You know what God’s saying?
“Hey, LeBron, hey you!” Many of us here grew up without a father. “I will be a Father to the fatherless. And you know the Father through the Son. I am the way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” The way is Jesus.
Pride is a very interesting thing. Pride is a forerunner, it is THE forerunner of all sin. The first book I wrote years ago, called Fatal Distractions, and I learned that through that study. When you lust, first of all you’ve gotta have pride. “God, I know what’s best for me. I mean, this desire is not given to me from you, it’s mine and I’m gonna do what I wanna do.” <whoomp!> We lust.
Greed. Greed. “You know, God, hey, that’s fine and dandy. You’ve blessed me and whatever but I deserve that. It’s about me. I’m gonna…<whoomp!> get that.” Pride is the forerunner of all sin. It’s hubris. Hubris is excessive arrogance, excessive pride. Proverbs 16:18, “Pride proceeds destruction, an arrogant spirit appears before a fall.” We don’t fall when we’re climbing the ladder of success. We fall when we’re at the top and it becomes wobbly.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18. If you start thinking to yourselves, “I did this, all by myself, I’m rich. I’m the man, I’m the “Chosen♦1.” I’m King James. It’s all mine.”
Well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce, to produce all this wealth. While making a donation to the Boys and Girls Club, LeBron said, “One day we might have another LeBron. Maybe.” On his family he said, “I mean, even my family gets spoiled at times watching me doing things that I do on and off the court.” On his Nike shoes being higher priced than Kobe’s, “Because it’s LeBron’s shoe. It is. It’s got my name on it.” When asked if it bothered him to have people root against him, “Well, because at the end of the day all the people that was rooting on me to fail wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. I’m goin’ to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that. They have to get back to the real world at some point.” When you refer to yourself in the third person you’ve got a serious pride issue.
I understand LeBron’s background. I understand your background. Jesus knows us better than we know ourselves. We’re made, though, LeBron you’re made, to have Jesus rule and reign in your life. You need to humble yourself before the mighty hand of God.
And before we say, “Oh yeah! LeBron, you need to be humbled! I would never make a statement like that. I would never make a statement like that. I can’t believe that! That’s so just off the chain! That’s so narcissistic! That’s so me-istic!” Think about your life. Think about my life. I think about it. The decisions, “Oh, I’ve gotta do what I’ve gotta do. I’m going with my heart. I know God wants me to be happy. I-I-I… me-me-me… my-my-my. My-my-I-I-me-me-my-my-I-I-I-my-my…my.” It’s about humility.
And humility is not like this. “Oh, woe is me! I’m the worst.” No, it’s seeing who God is and it’s seeing who I am, and it’s putting ourselves under the authority of God. LeBron, that’s what success is. Living in the will of God.
I think the third thing Jesus would say to LeBron or you or me whenever we have any measure of success, he would talk about the jealousy of success. The jealousy of success. Say jealousy with me. You just said the word lousy. Lousy is in the word jealousy. Whenever you’re jealous of someone you feel lousy. We’re only jealous of people that do the same thing that we do. I’m not jealous of LeBron. I’m not jealous of some doctor. I’m not jealous of someone who works in the technology industry. But put another pastor in my path? Hello. That peer jealousy, don’t we.
Someone does the same thing that you do, we peer at them and we become jealous. Jealousy. And if we’re not careful those of us who have success are jealous and are envious of others who have success. So yeah, we’re gonna have haters, people that criticize us, and that goes with the program. There is one way to live life criticism-free. Don’t do jack. You don’t do jack, you’ll never have critics. But you’re gonna have critics.
And LeBron said, “Hey, critics don’t bother me.” He said that. And then later he said, “I’ve taken a mental note of every single person who has said something bad about me.” Hahaha! Sounds like me and you, doesn’t it? Oh, criticism doesn’t bother me, no! Yes, it does. Yes, it does. It bothers me, it bothers you, too. So you’re gonna have people who are jealous. And this whole social media thing has taken jealousy and envy and slander to a whole new level of living.
So jealousy’s gonna happen, LeBron. You got haters out there. There’s web sites: www.ihatelebronjames.com. I mean, and other names I won’t even mention from the stage. God, though, and part of walking in the will of God, he gives us Godfidence, that Spirit-led swagger. You don’t have to worry about your haters. You don’t have to worry about criticism. Even though it hurts it bounces off because you realize you’re about God.
I did not have a great career at Florida State University but I did start several games my sophomore year. One of the games I started, I’ve written about this and I’ve told some of you about this before, I started against University of Auburn in Auburn, Alabama. There were 16,000 people in the arena. Dad hopped a plane from Houston, flew in to watch me play this game. And dad and I spent a lot of time playing basketball one-on-one. He taught me a lot. He’s a really good basketball player, great coach. When I played that game, you know what? I was not worried about 15,999, I was worried about what? My father. One.
“At the end of the day, LeBron, you’re performing… if you’d open your heart to me… you’re performing for an audience of one. Not your millions of followers on Twitter, not your endorsements, not to silence your critics, not for your homeboys, no, no, no, no, no. For me.”
And you know what? When I worry about that it’s amazing what happens in my life. But when I get my eyes and take my eyes off him and onto “I wonder what they think. I wonder what they feel. I can change them. They’re critical of me. I can sit down and convince them and we can have coffee and we…” No, no, no. They’re not gonna change. They’re jealous. They’re critics. Certain people like you, certain people don’t. Don’t waste your time trying to get the not-like-yous to like you. They’re not. Don’t debate it. Don’t worry about it. You’re playing for an audience of one. Your Father is in the house. Your Father is in the arena. And that’s confidence. It’s not being cocky, that’s Godfidence.
Another thing that Jesus would say is, “LeBron, there’s gonna be a fear factor involved. You’re fearful right now.” Whenever we’re successful, whenever God blesses, when we use our God-given gifts the way he wants to there’s gonna be a fear factor. Oh man, how do I keep this position? Or stay on a roll? Or what if I mess up? Then we become very, very insecure. You become insecure, I become insecure when we worry about what others think of us as opposed to what God thinks. Security is found in, OK, God I want to see my life as you see me. We need to surround ourselves also with people who see their lives the way God sees them. Nothing more, nothing less. I believe that causes a lot of us to Tweet, to post stuff on Instagram, to say stuff just so we’ll still be in the game. I mean, I gotta be noticed. Me! It’s about me! I gotta… I’m still there! I’m still the man! I’m still the girl! It’s me, it’s me, it’s me!!!!
The insecurity, the insecurity. I believe that so many icons struggle with, so many of these celebrities struggle with I think would just knock us back on our heels.
The fifth thing, betrayal. Jesus would say, “LeBron, the betrayal of success is in effect. Judas was at my table, LeBron! People, one minute they were applauding, ‘The Messiah! Jesus!’ and the next minute I’m crucified on a cross. LeBron, God used betrayal, my Father did, to afford the salvation of the world.”
There is a brutal side to betrayal and a beautiful side. Every single person, again, that I’ve talked to from all stages and ages of life, who have had any measure of success, always will launch into, “Well let me tell you how I was betrayed.” It’s unbelievable. And if you’ve not been betrayed, just wait. You’ll get betrayed. Betrayal happens.
And one of the unusual things about betrayal is that you can’t get betrayed unless someone is close to you. You can’t get betrayed unless you trust someone. When we give out grace, certain people will put it in our face. And it hurts. We can come through betrayal because of trust. “God, I trust you. You’ve been betrayed by humanity. You’ve been betrayed on a level I’ll never, ever, ever approach. You’re my sympathetic Savior and God, I trust you.” And the Lord will give you his word, he will give you people’s stories to help you and help me through betrayal.
LeBron, betrayal will happen. It doesn’t mean you stop trusting people, it means you take a step back and you go through it.
I think Jesus would close down his talk. I mean he would obviously share a lot of things with LeBron and you and me one-on-one but I think he would close this down by saying, “Everyone (Luke 12:48), everyone, LeBron, who has been given much – and LeBron, you’ve been give a boatload of gifts – everyone who has been given much, much will be required.”
We’ve been given so much, haven’t we? And God requires much. No matter what our background is, we have to take responsibility for our lives, tell the truth about our condition and to understand and to process what true success is. It’s living in the will of God. Because these five fatal characters will come after you and come after me. They want to take us down. But instead of temptation we’ve got truth. Instead of arrogance – this is a winning team – we got humility. Instead of jealousy we’ve got Godfidence. Instead of fear, security. Instead of betrayal we’ve got trust. That’s the Fab Five. That’s the Fab Five!
We need to pray for LeBron James. I’m not sure if he’s a believer or not but we need to pray that he makes the call to give the totality of his life to the Lord, that he lives in the will of God. That’s my prayer for your life, that’s my prayer for my life, as we discover what it means to have true Godly, supernatural success. Isn’t that true? I need to hear that. You need to hear that. Let’s pray.
[Ed leads in closing prayer.]