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In the tournament

Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 9:53 a.m. CDT

Sixty-four college basketball teams were excited to begin the NCAA tournament affectionately known as, “March Madness.” Sixty-four college basketball teams played through a difficult season, facing as many as 30 other college basketball teams. Some were invited because of their win/loss record and others earned their spot at the big dance by winning their conference tournament. Either way, not one single team got in for free. Every team in the tournament deserved to be there and they have every reason to hold their heads up.

But, wait a minute. Which team in the tournament is absolutely perfect? Which team is it that didn’t allow a single point to be scored on them all season? Which team is it that didn’t have a single foul called against them? Which team made every free throw all season long? Which one was it? None of them.

And, so it is in life. See, the teams that made it into the tournament weren’t perfect. None of them. Some were better than others, sure, but none was perfect. So why did they get to go?

They were invited, and they accepted.

Notice that there’s two parts to this equation. First, they were invited. The NCAA issued 64 (technically, 68) invitations to play in the tournament. Sixty-four (68) teams accepted those invitations. I don’t know that any team has ever rejected an invitation (although I’m guessing that someone reading this will know), but each of these teams said, “YES!” Now, keeping this in mind, let me take this a different direction.

Every human being who has ever walked on this planet has an invitation to heaven. Every one. Mother Theresa? Billy Graham? Charles Manson? Adolph Hitler? Yes, yes, yes and yes. Were some better than others? Of course! But everyone has been issued an invitation. Here’s how it reads:

“Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest.” (Jesus, in Matthew 11:28)

Jesus invites us to come to Him and drop the burden of sin at His feet. He promises to give us rest; to take the load of sin and give us new life.

The invitation is issued, but like the NCAA tournament, it has to be accepted. Again, I don’t know if any team has ever rejected the invitation, but I know that countless people have.

But let me show you one (of many) enormous difference between Jesus’ invitation and the NCAA invitation. The NCAA invitation is an invitation to participate. There are no guarantees you’ll win. In fact, you only have a 1 in 64 (68) chance of winning. Not so with God.

He said, “Come, and I’ll give you rest.” Period. He’s saying, “Trust in me. I’ll be with you on earth and forever in heaven.” That’s not a one in 64 chance, it’s a one-in-one promise. He invites. You accept. Done deal.

Of all the teams who were invited and accepted the invitation, only one will ultimately win. But, if you will accept Jesus’ invitation, you are promised a win. No, it won’t be a cake walk, it will take some effort on your part, but you’ll win. He guarantees it!

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