How Does Sanctification Work? by David Powlison, Free for CAPC Members
David Powlison dispels the myth that there is a “key to sanctification” and then lays the biblical groundwork for spiritual growth.
On February 9th, Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams’ wife, Ingrid, was struck head on by another vehicle. She died the next day, leaving behind a husband, five children, and a wake of grief affecting players and coaches throughout the NBA.
The loss of his wife was the latest blow in a lifetime of pain for Williams, and the raw emotion and reflection pouring out across the league all pointed to a couple who had sacrificially loved others for many years.
“She was like the person you could always go to with anything. Coach Williams as well,” said Anthony Morrow, who has played for Williams on two different teams. “Those two are the standard when it comes to marriage, to being believers. It’s inspirational. I feel like I lost a family member.”More than a Christian who has beaten the odds and taken the world by storm, I hope to aspire to the quiet, dignified example of a Monty Williams.
Williams’ faith has never been a secret, but his star has never reached the heights of a Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin, or Tony Dungy, so there are few public details about his Christian walk. One of the stories we are privy to is the gut-wrenching account of Williams being there for former player Ryan Anderson, after Anderson dealt with the trauma of discovering his girlfriend after she committed suicide. The visual of one hulking man helping another try to survive the torment of a sudden tragedy in silence, presence, and a grieving suite of spare mattresses and couches is more than touching.
Williams’ testimony is no different, better, or worse than that of a Tebow. Both men believe in a risen Christ who died for their sins, and both would point to the same savior as the hope of the world. Perhaps Williams would paint 3:16 in his eye black were he a star quarterback—that’s not the point. The private and public faith of a believer are (hopefully) not at odds. Whatever a Christian’s “platform,” however, the genuine fruit of the Spirit can never translate across the airwaves quite like it can across meaningful, unbroadcast relationships.
A “platform” to perform as a Christian entertainer, athlete, or coach is terribly fleeting, and hazardous to boot. A Christian superstar can be scandalized if not fortunate enough to be forgotten, and we’ve seen too many heroes of the faith fall when their hypocrisies are examined under the public’s microscope. Icons shatter and celebrity flees like a thief in the night, but genuine acts of Christian love like the Williams’ will never fade. You can’t take away the eternal weight left when you’re just a Monty or an Ingrid, loving folks when you don’t have to.
I tremble at the thought of working out my faith on a national stage, both at the fear and pride in my own heart that could be exposed to a larger audience than it already is. Would I be a spiritual chicken, afraid to confess the Creator before the creatures He has made? Or would I slather on extra layers of false righteousness, hiding my sin to better represent the gospel (as foolish an impulse as there ever was)? I’m thankful I don’t have to find out.
More than a Christian who has beaten the odds and taken the world by storm, I hope to aspire to the quiet, dignified example of a Monty Williams. A believer’s greatest display of faith won’t come during championship press conference, as the whole world’s proverbial right hand sees what their left hand is up to. I would rather serve off the radar, in the still spaces where God’s glory can’t be mistaken for my own. Monty Williams, an obvious source of hope for others struck by disaster, has accomplished that. May the Lord grant him continued peace.
UPDATE: After this piece published, Monty Williams gave a powerful, gospel-rich eulogy at his wife Ingrid’s funeral. We think any readar touched by his testimony as described in the post would want to watch the speech as well.
Image Credit: Williams Family
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