March is one of the best months for sports fans because the madness of the NCAA Tournament provides intriguing matchups, buzzer beaters, upsets, and exciting games. But the tournament isn’t the tournament without the BRACKET!
We love seeing where teams are slotted and then taking on the challenge of filling out the brackets. Although there are many different approaches and philosophies in predicting how the brackets will play out, here are three ways to look at them as they relate to the Bible and our lives.
Filling out a bracket of integrity
Are you the type of person who decides to complete multiple brackets with different picks, or do you stick with the one and only “bracket of integrity?”
There is reasoning behind diversifying your selections to give yourself the best chance to win, but I’m in favor of having only one bracket. More specifically, I’m convinced we should only talk about or represent one bracket.
If someone does fill out multiple brackets, we don’t like hearing them brag about an upset they picked on one of their ten brackets, do we? And we don’t like listening to them tell us how impressed we should be that one of their brackets is almost perfect, while their other five are totally wrong!
However, if you fill out one bracket of integrity that includes your convictions for who you think will win the games and then get them right, go ahead and tell me about that awesome upset you picked, because I have much more respect for you.
When thinking about how we represent ourselves in life, we should place great emphasis on our integrity. We don’t want to be known as people who say one thing when it’s convenient, but allow our actions to depict something else. People are confused by this and can’t figure out what we truly believe.
The philosophy of filling out multiple brackets with various teams winning can illustrate how our opinions and convictions change based on the company we keep or the different daily scenarios that surface. But we must ask ourselves whether we are followers of Jesus pursuing integrity, or people who like to keep our options open without really sticking to our convictions.
The Bible says in Proverbs 10:9 (NLT), “People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will be exposed.”
Ultimately, our multiple brackets will be exposed. Someone will catch us talking about Virginia winning it all one minute and then UNC the next. If we are living one way at home and another way at school or work, eventually we won’t be able to keep up.
Let’s be challenged to stick to a life of integrity where our character and convictions remain consistent and rooted in God’s Word.
As we fill out our brackets of integrity, we are convinced that the matchups will play out a certain way. Some of us become so confident in our picks that we start guaranteeing that games will end the way we predict. We tell our friends what’s about to happen.
However, if you’ve ever filled out a bracket before, you know how quickly the cockiness wears off. Even after the first game finishes, most of us start saying, “Well, there goes my bracket!”
Filling out brackets is humbling, but it can be a reminder of how we approach the unpredictability of life. Although we know we can’t predict the future, we still have an arrogance about the “guarantee” of certain things happening for us. Whether it’s accomplishing something on the field, landing our dream job, having kids when we plan to have them or moving to the perfect neighborhood, we assume these things will play out the way we choose.
There’s nothing wrong with preparing, planning, and setting goals as we trust God, but sometimes we sound the same way as when we talk about our brackets: “I know for sure this is going to turn out this way,” or “I guarantee this is happening.” Only God sees the big picture of our lives, and we want to humbly submit to His plan.
James 4:13-15 challenges us with these words: ”Look here, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.’ How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog — it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.’”
Although these verses are tough to swallow, they make us take notice that we aren’t in control of everything, and life can change in an instant. We need to have an open mind instead of trying to manipulate God or make guarantees about the way we think life should go.
As we fill out our brackets and plan our lives, let’s remember to humbly look at the future while we pursue God’s will for our lives, knowing we’ll be okay when our life’s brackets get busted at times.
The expert’s bracket
When dissecting the 68 teams in the tournament and predicting each matchup, most of us quickly realize how little we know about many of them. East Coast fans don’t typically stay up late to watch West Coast teams, and many of us prefer to exclusively follow our favorite conference or team. We’re also unlikely to be familiar with a lot of the players across the country when we haven’t even seen many of the mid-major schools compete.
Since we lack in our college basketball knowledge, we rely heavily on the “experts” who give advice and analysis. They tell us how potent a team’s defense is, how strong a small school’s 3-point shooting can be, how certain players have the ability to carry their team and how a school is getting hot at just the right time.
There is no question that Jay Bilas, Seth Greenberg, and Jay Williams have watched many more games than most of us did this year. After all, their job is to study game film and know the stats.
However, as we fill out our brackets, we need to do our own research to make sure that what they say is accurate. We may hear one expert say a team has great rebounders, while another expert says the same team struggles on the boards.
So what is the truth? We can rely on experts to share what they’ve learned, but we must take some ownership ourselves and test what they say.
Similarly, when we are looking for truth, answers, and a deeper understanding of who God is and what His Word says, we listen to faith experts, pastors, teachers, and writers to give us insight.
These people have studied scripture, have theological training and can articulate what they’ve learned. There is great value in seeking information from those who are wise in their areas of expertise.
But at the same time, we must also study scripture and personally spend time with the Lord to seek His truth. Instead of taking the message of “experts” at face value, it’s crucial to test what they’re saying by diving into God’s Word and confirming that it is biblically based.
Just like college basketball analysts sometimes misspeak or position their opinion as fact, there are spiritual leaders who get off track as well.
1 John 4:1-3 warns us by saying, “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God…”
As we fill out our brackets and listen to tips and suggestions from college basketball analysts, let’s test what they’re saying so we know it’s true. Likewise, let’s make sure what we’re learning from respectable teachers and pastors lines up with the message of Jesus and the truth of the Bible.
Enjoy filling out your brackets and watching them get busted...and make sure you allow the process to point you toward God and His Word.