Several years back, I was coaching the boys basketball team at the junior high school where I taught. The team was mediocre with little raw talent. We had a few players over six foot tall, but essentially the team was of average height and average athletic abilities. There were no “natural” shooters on the team. We didn’t have the guy who was a dependable two pointer. But we ended the season with a winning record, because we had one player who kept the team alive. His name was Andrew, and his energy and passion for the game resonated with the players. Most of them hustled, because Andrew hustled.
Andrew was in the 9th grade. He had the speed and agility of a deer, excellent ball control, quick hands, and a nose for the game, but Andrew was only 5’8″, and he was not a natural shot. His hours of practice resulted in his so-so shooting abilities, but on the court, Andrew would be wherever the ball would be. The basketball was his magnet. A week never passed that Andrew didn’t bring me a measuring stick, stand up against the door facing in the gym, and ask me to measure him. He had high hopes of growing a few inches during the basketball season. That didn’t happen, but it never phased Andrew. He kept his pace with, I must add, a smile on his face.
Late in the season we were playing a team whose players were beasts. The team starters were all over six foot with several of them being 6’2″ and 6’3″. They had not lost a game all season, winning their games with a spread of twenty or thirty points. Watching them play, I was reminded of a college team. They were “that” good. And our boys were rightfully nervous. They were intimidated just watching these over-sized junior high boys warm up. And I didn’t blame them.
When the game commenced, Andrew was on the bench. He had sprained his ankle in practice and didn’t start the game. The action on the boards was grueling. Our players were not use to such fierce offensive or defensive ball handling. They just wanted to get the game over with and try not to humiliate themselves any more than possible. Watching the fast action, one of the larger players on our team looked at me and said, “I don’t want to go in. I’m scared.” But Andrew could not wait to get into the game, and while he knew that we were going to be stomped, he wanted in the game. It was his team, and he could not bear sitting on the bench and watching them be thumped without getting in there and putting up a fight. I will always remember his words, “Please send me in, Coach. Don’t make me sit here. Send me in.”
Andrew played the rest of the game despite his sprained ankle. He made no points as he was too small to get a shot off against the monster defense of the other team. He made a few steals, but his performance was average. But something happened when Andrew entered the game. The other players, who felt helplessly lost in a game against this could-be college team, suddenly began to play ball. There was a fight. Instead of a defeatist resignation to a disgracing loss, our team played the game. They fought, and they lost the game by thirty points. But they didn’t hang their heads as they walked out of the gymnasium.
Andrew changed the pace of the game. He didn’t change the outcome, but he changed the perception of the game. And he changed the perception for all of our team’s players, because Andrew had heart. He had that special purpose in his life. It wasn’t a purpose to be wealthy or famous. He knew that he could make a difference, and that was exactly what he did. We were going to lose the game. Unless the other team quit and walked off the floor, and we won by forfeit, we were not going to win. What would have been an embarrassing loss became a bearable loss. It wasn’t shameful.
Andrew’s words so many years ago always stuck in my mind. “Please send me in, Coach. Don’t make me sit here. Send me in.” Andrew wanted to be used. For all that he had to offer and as small as he was, he wanted to give what he had. And it reminded me of the inspirational Bible verse, Isaiah 6:8, Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
During this good fight to save our country, we need Americans who have the heart of Andrew. We need Americans who are not waiting for tyranny to come knocking at their doors. We need Americans who are willing to meet the enemy or the opposition at the battle front. A man recently told me that he is not going to fight a battle for everyone else. He said that when they come to his door, he will fight. He is clueless. When they come to his door, it will be too late.
How many Americans and how many Christians are willing to sacrifice? Our military collectively says, “Here am I. Send me!” Our culture warriors, who are fighting in the trenches against the enemies of God, have said, “Here am I. Send me!” Agreeably, the fight is daunting. It is frightening, and the outcome is unknown. But if Christians truly have the faith they profess to have, they need to speak out. ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ is more than just a hymn. It is a calling. It is time for the nation’s faithful to scream out, “Lord, Here am I. Send me!”