"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." - 1 Corinthians 3:6
I am a sports guy. I thoroughly enjoy competition and watching great athletes perform at a high intensity and skill level. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a North Carolina Tar Heel basketball fan. I fell in love with Carolina basketball at the age of eight during the Dean Smith era. I have three copies of the Carolina Way, one autographed by Dean Smith. I have been to the Dean Dome on several occasions. Anytime Carolina plays in Atlanta, I am there! My son is becoming a Tar Heel fan and for this I am so thankful!!! I am a fan! If you know college basketball you are aware of Carolina's biggest rival. It pains me to even type the word "Duke" but I will stomach it for the sake of encouraging you today. (From this point forward in this article the word "Duke" will be only be abbreviated by the letter 'd'. *I still have standards)
The year was 1992 and 'D' was playing Kentucky in the semi-final game of the Final Four. The game was intense and violent, highlighted especially by Christian Laettner's bush league cheap shot of stomping on the chest of a Kentucky player in the early part of the game. The game came down to the final 2.1 seconds. 'D' had the ball on the opposite end of their goal and was down by one point. The full court pass was made, Laettner, who should have not been in the game due to his bush league antics earlier, caught the pass and hit a turn around jump shot with no time left on the clock. 'D' won the game and would eventually go on to win the National Championship. Breaks my heart to this day.
This shot has been highlighted for the last 28 years as one of the greatest moments in college basketball history. In fact, it is rated as one of the top three plays of all time! Every time the highlight is played, it shows Laettner's shot and his celebration and the eruption of the arena and the storming of the court by the 'D' fans. As much as it pains me to say it, it was a pretty spectacular moment in basketball history.
With all of the attention that has been given to the shot made by Laettner, there is an important thing that is overlooked. Grant Hill made a phenomenal full court pass that enabled the shot to be made. In basketball this is called an "Assist." Without the assist, there would have been not shot, no win, no Championship, and no ridiculous highlight reel that steals my joy every time I see it during March Madness!
Dean Smith in his book "The Carolina Way" stated that he praised the Assist much higher than the shot in his coaching philosophy. So much so, that if a player scored a basket, they were taught to point at the person who gave them the assist in order to acknowledge how important the "Assist" was to the play. Michael Jordan was once benched while playing for Dean Smith for not acknowledging the assist! Imagine that, the greatest basketball player of all time benched for not pointing to his teammate who made the pass that enabled him to make the shot! The Assist is a BIG DEAL!
There are so many people who are involved in everyday life who do so much behind the scenes that enable others to succeed. It is easy to look at the highlight reel and see the effectiveness of the one who hit the shot, but God always reminds us in His Word that there are those who "Assist."
The Apostle Paul closes the great book of Romans with a personal "thank you" list to all those who assisted him in the ministry of church planting. Without the unnamed disciples in the book of Acts who lowered Paul over the wall in a basket in order to save his life, we would not have half of our New Testament! Without Aquila and Priscilla, Paul would have had a faltering discipleship and mentorship ministry. They were the unsung heroes of at least two of his successful church plants!
The list could go on an on and throughout the entire narrative of Scripture! The point is simple, in life, ministry, and in any successful endeavor, there are crucial people who give the Assist. They may not be on the highlight reel, but discerning people know that without the assist there would be no success.
I will never forget what a man told me when God had called his son to preach. He stated "Billy Graham had a father who helped him become a man before he became a man of God." That stood out to me so much! God uses people who we do not see in the highlight reels to shape, mold, and disciple those who may shake the world!
So whatever your role may be today, never forget the Assist! Never forget that God uses unseen people for powerful purposes. The highlight reel of Heaven is different than the highlight reel on earth! What you do for Christ and others may seem insignificant but in Heaven it is loudly proclaimed! I thank God for all those who give an "assist" along the way. Godly parents, siblings, teachers, pastors, staff members, deacons, Sunday school teachers, friends, coaches, ministry partners, praying church members, the list could go on and on! Stay faithful and keep on giving the Assist! Your Father in Heaven is watching and He is storming the courts in glory with thunderous applause and praise every time you give the Assist!