By Ray Miranda
Pastor, the Story church
I’m from El Paso, TX and one of the things El Pasoans are proud of is the history of the University of Texas El Paso basketball team. It includes when, in 1966, Texas Western (now UTEP) became the first team in NCAA history to win the National Championship while starting five African Americans. Through the 80’s they had some great teams and in 1992 they made it to the Sweet 16. I’m particularly fond of this one as my brother was an assistant coach under the Hall of Fame Legend – Don Haskins.
That season, there was one game that was not shown live but was shown a few hours after the fact. Before the game played on TV, I spoke with my brother on the phone and he let me know that UTEP pulled it out in dramatic fashion. It was a nail biter and in the last seconds there was time for one more shot but the other team had the ball. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 – then the other team loses the ball. I watch anticipating that I might see something unbelievable. 5, 4, 3 – Our point guard, Eddie Rivera, picks up the ball with about 3 seconds left so I figured it was going into overtime. But then, he flings it from the free throw line (other side of the court) and I remember thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” BAM! Full court shot to win the game. ABSOLUTELY UNBELIEVABLE! ! It is amazing that through such a tight game, I had no stress because I knew how it all turned out in the end.
This reminds me of an aspect of my life. For the first 27 years of my life I was terrified about death (the end). I thought I had faith but my lack of confidence in things like heaven showed that I didn’t. I felt like death was just a horrible end. So, as I walked through life, it lingered in my mind and heart and I tried to ignore “the end.” The thing about a fear of death is that it does not get better as you get older and it puts a weight on your shoulders as you walk through life. But then it happened, the Lord got a hold of me. That’s right – me. A fearful, directionless guy who didn’t really have faith. Suddenly, everything changed. Sure, death was still hard (at times, beyond measure) but I didn’t fear it anymore. I actually started to believe that the Lord did love me and there was such a place as heaven where there would be no more pain and no more tears. Sure, I didn’t have a bunch of information on what heaven was like but I believed it was real, it was good and it was where I would one day be. So, I stopped fearing “the end.” When you walk through life, knowing that the end is good, it changes everything. As you look at your circumstances, you might not be able to see how your life can possibly end good. But, if you know it will end good even if you don’t know how, you just don’t worry as much about the circumstances. Why would you? It even provides a little bit excitement as you watch it unfold. Not only that, you start to seek the good the Lord has for you now and not just in the end.
You know, I didn’t tell anyone in advance about Rivera hitting the buzzer beater. I wanted them to experience it for themselves. This is different though, I want everyone to know that by faith (as the Lord defines faith), it all ends well. Perhaps you are wondering about how to have the type of faith where you actually believe this. A great step is to check out a few churches in the area until you find the one that is right for you. You see, these are the things we talk about all the time. Now, I know you might have some fears but, you never know, it just might be the beginning of a great story. One that is even better than a full court shot to win a game.